Health

There Are Some Perks of Being Short

If you are shorter than the average person, you’ve likely felt the zing of being pushed around by someone bigger, or you've been callously dismissed by someone you’re into for being “too short.” Taller is somehow perceived as smarter, stronger, more beautiful, and more successful. But let’s consider that historically the aversion to short stature was due to the perception that short people were malnourished, ill, and poverty ridden. Now, being short simply means that you’re not tall.

There’s no shortage of studies citing that people who are short earn less money, are less likely to be entrepreneurial, and are less attractive as a mate. There’s even a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research that says that tall people are overall happier human beings. And while, yes, there are certainly things that people of a more diminutive stature may not achieve—supermodel status, that NBA contract, a job as a Radio City Music Hall Rockette, an unobstructed view at a concert—being pint-sized does have its perks.

Measuring Height

1. Do short people live longer?

One such perk is that people of a shorter stature may live longer than their taller counterparts.

A 2014 study published in the journal PLOS One tracked 8,000 Japanese-American men over the course of 40 years and discovered that the shorter the subject, the longer the life. They discovered that a certain variant of the FOXO3 genome, which is directly linked to both longevity and body size. While everyone has this gene, short men were more likely to carry the enhanced longevity variation of the gene. "Height in mid-life is positively associated with mortality, with shorter stature predicting longer lifespan," this particular study of men concluded.

"If you're bigger, you have more cells, so you have to grow more, and you use up a lot of those cells," researcher Dr. Tim Donlon theorized in an article in Hawaii News Now. "My feeling is that if you're shorter, you have a reserve of cells you can use later in life, and that might have some impact on why shorter people or smaller people have a longer life span.”

Scientists don’t expect future results to be skewed by other variables like ethnicities or even sex. "People aren't all that different. Genetically, we're all pretty similar," the study's Dr. Bradley Wilcox said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "If this effect applies to model organisms, than you can be pretty sure that it applies to other humans because humans are a lot more similar to each other than they are to model organisms.”

A 2003 study showed that shorter-statured southern Europeans from countries such as Spain and Portugal had lower rates of cardiac death than their taller northern European counterparts, from countries including Sweden and Norway. And let’s not forget that the longest living people in the world—those living on Japan’s Okinawa islands—have nearly seven times the number of centenarians as other industrialized countries—and boast the lowest cancer and heart disease rates in the world. While most research points to the Okinawan diet and lifestyle as reason for the island population's long lifespan, an article in the Atlantic titled, "The Virtue of Being Short," also points out that the average Okinawan man stands a diminutive four-feet, nine-inches tall.

Short Tall

2. The height of healthy.

A long life isn’t the only perk to a short stature, there are other health benefits as well. Research published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention reveals that height becomes a variable in developing cancer for tall post-menopausal woman, whose risk of developing the disease increases 13 percent for each additional four inches of height. Other studies reveal that tall men also carry an increased risk for developing cancer, particularly an aggressive form of prostate cancer, and other non-sex specific cancers like lung and kidney cancer. People that are taller are also at greater risk for blood clots and respiratory diseases. (And don’t get us started on a tall person’s increased risk around low ceiling fans, apparently a danger so pervasive that someone felt it needed its own Facebook community page.)

3. Relationships when short.

A 2014 study at New York University reveals that men who stand below 5’7” are 32 percent less likely to get a divorce, compared with men of average and above-average height. The implications of the study are that shorter men tend to marry less and marry later, developing longer lasting and well-considered relationships. The study goes on to say that shorter men do a greater share of the housework and bring home a greater share of income. The sociological implications of this study (and others) are disappointingly mired in archaic unconscious bias and theories of “short man syndrome.” But let’s accentuate the positive: a collaborative and considered partnership and not divorcing.

Another plus in the relationship department comes from a study of Hungarian men published in 2014 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. The study found that participants that stood below 5’9” reported having more sex than taller guys: 2.69 times per week on average. In 2009 writer Julie Manis, herself 5’5”, expounded on her love of short men for Salon, writing of “a special intimacy that comes with being the same height as your lover."

"Visually your perspective is the same," she wrote. "You truly see each other eye to eye.”