Weird Facts About Short and Tall People

On average, taller people score slightly higher on IQ tests than shorter people, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

If you tower over your neighbors, those findings may add inches to your ego. But don’t let height go to your head! Studies have linked both tallness and shortness to a variety of health risks and benefits.

Genes influence height and intelligence

Using data collected from twins and their parents—totalling nearly 8000 participants—researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder examined links found between elevated height and IQ.

Their findings suggest that two factors may be at play. First, it appears there are genes that influence both IQ and height, notes Matthew Keller, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, in a statement.

“At the same time, it also looks like people who are taller are slightly more likely to choose mates who are smarter and vice versa,” adds Keller. “Such mate choice causes ‘IQ genes’ and ‘tall genes’ to become statistically associated with one another.”

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Tallness comes with risks and benefits

Average intelligence isn’t the only thing that grows with height. If you are tall, you may also have a greater chance of:

  • Being bitten by bugs. The Scottish biting midge, a voracious blood-sucking bug, prefers taller and heavier people, found researchers at Rothamsted Research and the University of Aberdeen. Larger people provide larger targets, while producing more heat, moisture, carbon dioxide, and other chemicals that can attract insects.

  • Developing dangerous blood clots. Compared to shorter control groups, taller people are more likely to develop potentially life-threatening blood clots in the deep veins of their legs and other body parts, report researchers in Norway. In particular, the risk is heightened among men and women who are tall and obese.
  • Experiencing cancer. Compared to shorter peers, taller post-menopausal women are at greater risk of cancer, warn researchers in the journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. In particular, multiple myeloma, melanoma, and cancers of the thyroid, rectum, kidney, endometrium, colorectum, colon, ovary, and breast are associated with tallness.
  • Earning more money. On the upside, taller men may earn more money on average than shorter men, according to research conducted in Australia. It may be that shorter men experience discrimination in response to their stature, suggest the authors, while taller men may enjoy a boost in social status. 

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Shortness comes with perks and dangers

Shortness also comes with its share of health benefits and risks. If you are short, you may have higher odds of:

  • Living longer. A recent study of nearly 500 men in Sardinia revealed that shorter fellows were likely to outlive their taller peers by an average of 2 years, based on their height at age 20. In addition, a research review published in Life Sciences noted that data compiled from millions of deaths suggests that people of short stature have longer lifespans.  
  • Having children. According to researchers from the Netherlands, shorter women tend to have more children than taller ladies. The reasons remain unclear – but lead researcher, Gert Stulp, Ph.D., suspects that shorter women may spend more energy on reproduction. When it comes to men, Stulp found in a separate study that those of average height appear to have the most children.  
  • Developing heart disease. While deep vein blood clots are common among tall folk, the risk of cardiovascular disease in general is greater among short people. In fact, a systematic review of 52 studies found that shorter men and women are approximately 1.5 times more likely to develop symptoms and die from cardiovascular disease than taller people.
  • Having strong character and a sense of humor. John Schwartz, a reporter for The New York Times and author of Short: Walking Tall When You Are Not Tall, believes that many so-called problems associated with shortness have been manufactured or overblown by drug companies that market growth hormones. In an interview with NPR, he credits shortness and its associated stigma with pushing smaller people to work harder, become tougher, and develop a good sense of humor.

Don’t let your height get you down

Height is influenced by many factors, including multiple genetic variants and environmental conditions. In rare cases, extreme tallness or shortness may reflect an underlying health condition that requires medical treatment, such as gigantism or Turner syndrome.

In most cases, however, experts encourage people to focus on health factors within their control, such as not smoking, staying active, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. Whether you’re short or tall—healthy lifestyle choices are your best bet for wellbeing and longevity.

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