Page last updated at 10:35 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 11:35 UK

Tall people lead 'better lives'

Bao Xishun & wife
Bao Xishun, the world's tallest man, measures 2.36m (7ft 9in)

Taller people live better lives, according to US researchers.

More than 454,000 adults aged 18 and over were asked by phone for their height and evaluate their lives.

Overall, taller individuals judged their lives more favourably and were more likely to report positive emotions such as enjoyment and happiness.

Reporting to the journal Economics and Human Biology, they conclude that this is because the taller people also had higher incomes and education.


The researchers used the Cantril "self-measuring striving scale" which asks you to imagine a ladder with rungs numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top.

The 10th rung represents the "best possible life for you" and the bottom is the "worst possible life for you".

Participants were asked to report on which rung of the ladder they thought they stood on at the present time.

Surprisingly people who say that their lives are the 'best possible' are slightly shorter on average
Angus Deaton
Princeton University

Men who were above average height 5ft 10in (177.8cm) reported that they were standing higher on the ladder than men who were below average height.

They had an average ladder score of 6.55 compared to the shorter men who scored 6.41.

Women scored higher overall than men on the ladder scale and there was less difference between the taller and shorter women.

Taller women above the average height of 5ft 4in ( 162.6cm) scored 6.64 compared to a score of 6.55 for the shorter women.

But one of the lead researchers, Angus Deaton from Princeton University, said: "Surprisingly people who say that their lives are the 'best possible' are slightly shorter on average than those who are a step or two below.

"Perhaps the 8% of people who think their lives cannot be improved are different in other respects."

Positive emotions

The study also looked at people's emotions.

Taller men and women were more likely to report enjoyment and happiness, and less likely to report pain and sadness.

The people who are happiest are not the very tallest- there is a threshold of height tolerance
Dr Colin Gill
Chartered psychologist

Taller men, although not taller women, also worry less.

But sadness and anger were more likely to be experienced.

The authors say their findings cannot be attributed to different demographics or ethnicity, but are almost entirely explained by the positive association between height and both income and education, both of which are positively linked to better lives.

'Height matters'

Chartered psychologist Dr Colin Gill said: "There's no direct correlation between income and happiness - surveys going back years show that.

"But there does appear to be a correlation between height and happiness and height and income.

"If you look at this study, the people who are happiest are not the very tallest.

"There is a threshold of height tolerance - at about 6ft 5in (195.6cm) to 6ft 6in (198.1cm).

"It is about as tall as people think is normal, beyond that you are odd and life becomes very difficult.

"Height does matter, it's always mattered for a very obvious reason - when you are born you are shorter than the people who look after you and have authority over you.

"And that power relationship never reverses."

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