We Ask: Why Are Taller People Happier?

We ask: Why are taller people happier?


Being tall has its perks. You can reach the dizzying heights of the top shelf, you’re guaranteed a view of the stage at packed out festivals and, for some unknown reason, you can always pull off a jumpsuit. And, according to the Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index, tall people can add another bonus to their repertoire; they’re generally much happier than smaller people.

The index, based on a daily poll of the US population, indicates that taller people evaluate their lives more favourably and are more likely to report positive emotions such as enjoyment and happiness. They are also much less likely to complain of sadness or physical pain. But how can height, a biological fact we can do little to change, influence life satisfaction in such a way?

Career prospects are heightened with every extra inch


There is significant evidence to suggest taller people are more likely to enjoy successful careers than short people. They are more likely to be chosen for more competitive jobs and even earn more money than their shorter counterparts on average.


This success may derive from the fact the average person considers taller people to be more dominant, healthy and intelligent. It may seem irrational to revert back to evolutionary psychology, but the reason behind height favouritism may date back to our ancestors. In ancient times, taller men were formidable leaders, warriors and hunters who were imperative to a community’s survival.

Furthermore, sized-based hierarchies are found in bonobo and chimpanzee colonies, two of our closest living relatives. Scientists believe the relationship between greater size and higher social rank is one of our primal instincts. This instinct may extend to the business world where taller employees are viewed as more capable leaders.

This phenomenon has extended to US politics where researchers have discovered a genuine correlation between a presidential candidate’s height and how many votes they receive – something that does not bode well for Hillary Clinton.

why-are-taller-people-happier In South Korea, height favouritism has gone even further—companies routinely ask for height and weight on job applications. This is crazy, wouldn’t you agree? But it’s true. According to studies conducted at Huazhong University in China, Korean females can earn up to 2% more for every centimetre of height. Because of this, so-called “survival surgeries” such as cosmetic limb lengthening are growing in popularity.

Tall people get first dibs on the dating pool

are-taller-people-more-lucky-in-love When it comes to love, apparently size does matter too. Numerous studies have found that taller men are considered to be more attractive. A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that taller men marry at higher rates and are more likely to date well-educated women. Short men, on the other hand, get married at the lowest rates to less-educated women.

It could be argued that women, particularly in the western world, are influenced by the media who champion the “tall, dark and handsome” stereotype as an ideal. However, Piotr Sorokowski, a researcher at the University of Wroclaw in Poland, found that the same ideal exists within the Hadza, a remote group of indigenous nomads from Tanzania.

Sorokowski showed Hadza men and women a series of photographs of male/female couples. The Hadza were asked which height difference they would prefer in their own relationship. Both men and women overwhelmingly preferred the pair with the greatest difference in stature.

But it’s not all plain sailing for tall women. A Brunel University study revealed short women with long legs are the most naturally attractive to men. Nonetheless, men view tall women as being wealthier and more successful and while these assumptions don’t guarantee a lasting relationship, they do make tall women attractive to ambitious men.

Lifespan may not stretch as far as a tall person’s height

Successful careers, healthy bank accounts and a romantic advantage may contribute to the perceived happiness of tall people, but having too much height may come at a cost. Since healthier children tend to grow taller, you’d be forgiven for thinking height is a good indicator of health and fitness. Unfortunately for tall people, that’s not always the case.

Numerous studies have found that shorter people tend to live longer than those that are taller. The Sardinian municipality of Villagrande Strisaili has the highest proportion of centenarians in Europe. It also has an average male height of around 160cm (5ft 3in) within its oldest generation. A mere coincidence? Perhaps, but the study also found that short men in the municipality live an average of two years longer than taller men.

One explanation for this could be that the bigger you are, the more cells you have in your body. This increases the chance of cell mutations that could develop into various forms of cancer. Furthermore, a larger body generally burns more energy, which in turn increase a buildup of toxic by-products.

It’s important to point out that all of these observations are simply correlations that come with plenty of exceptions. Biology might influence our destiny in more ways than we realise, but ultimately, as the old adage says, it’s not the size of your body that counts but the way you use it.

By: Oliver Stainforth