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September 22, 2008


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I expect there's a point where being taller than normal might start detracting from one's happiness however. I'm 6'1" and very content to be taller than average, but I'm glad I'm not much taller because the world isn't built to accomodate people much taller--airplane seats, headroom in cars, clothing sizes, bed lengths, etc. Not to mention the logistics of dating a woman much tinier than oneself could be awkward.

I recall watching some profile on TV years ago of an NBA star--he certainly was well compensated for his height and talents, but he (almost literally) ran into difficulties on a daily basis--short door frames, hotel beds so short his feet would hang over the edge, needing to buy tailored clothes or visit specialty clothing stores, etc.

Also, Michael Crichton (author of "Jurassic Park", "Andromeda Strain", etc.) wrote in his auto-biography "Journeys" of some of the difficulties he experienced being so tall (6' 9") and traveling through Asia, where he was essentially regarded as a freak of nature.

Interesting point, Dar. I've always enjoyed being 6'5", and while there are definitely some uncomfortable things you have to deal with (like you mentioned, plane seats, small cars, short beds), there aren't very many daily annoyances that cause me to say "I wish I was 5" shorter!". In fact, I'm glad I am the height I am. I never have issues with seeing things at movies or concerts, I can always find people, I'm more attractive to the opposite sex (speaking of which, my girlfriend is 5'4" and 105 lbs and we're definitely not awkward :).

Taller people luck out in every area finance, love, careers, whatever. And being 5'6" I'm a bit bitter about this.

Commenting on the actual data now:

I do take some issue with this statement:
"The main reason why taller people do better is because they have higher incomes, they are better educated, and they work in higher status occupations," said the researchers."

If by doing better they mean are happier, then I have to disagree. They are confusing correlation with causation. Every longitudinal psychological study suggests that happiness is essentially constant over one's life. Education, salary (after a certain rather low point) and even crippling illness (quadriplegia etc) can dent happiness but it always returns to its basal level.

There are not many ways to actually improve one's overall happiness. If one is clinically depressed we can work on that but if a person is just normal its hard to get them to the level of happy. If you follow Seligman's work he suggests ways that can supposedly boost basal happiness, however he doesn't have data to back them up yet.

Then there is this statement:
"Money, in turn, is a powerful predictor of life satisfaction."

Once you are past abject poverty, you are pretty much at your basal level of happiness. This is well known in psychology research and has even been discussed on FMF at least once before (see

I'm about 5'10" or so. I guess that's right around average, maybe slightly below, but I'm very happy. Granted I just got a 100% increase in income so that may have a little to do with it.

I thought it was the lack of choice that brings happiness... or at least synthetic happiness.

I'm 6'5 and my girlfriend is 5'6, no real problems there, my brother is 6'2 and his wife is 4'10 and it seems to work out well for them too.

My only real complaint about being taller is shirt sizes and roller coasters. As a geologist I do a lot of field work so t-shirts and jeans are pretty standard office attire (being well paid and dressing comfortably really is the definition of win:win). Width is not too big of an issue, I'm not slim, but not rotund either, unfortunately I need to wear 2XL tshirts due to the length of my torso. Anything less ends up looking like a halter top on me as the shirts don't quite reach.

The only other bad experience I've had with my height is roller coasters. I love them, would ride them non stop as a kid whenever we went to an amusement park. Unfortunately once I "grew up" I could no longer fit comfortably into them. Either the lap bar would barely fit over my legs, pinching them down painfully. Or the shoulder harness would end up crushing my collar bone as I tried to squeeze in. Eventually I just had to give up.

So for all the short, bitter people out there, feel free to lord your roller coastery goodness over me if it helps.

Quote: "The main reason why taller people do better is because they have higher incomes, they are better educated, and they work in higher status occupations," said the researchers.

This part is VERY confusing. What do they "do better"? I thought they were better educated and had higher incomes BECAUSE they were taller? So basically, can't we reduce this whole statement and just go back to, "taller people are happier"? Otherwise, aren't they happier because they have higher incomes and a better education?

According to a University of Florida study, each inch in height amounted to about $789 more a year in pay. Compounded over the course of a 30-year career, tall people enjoy an earnings advantage of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Okay, that settles it! I'm getting some platform shoes tomorrow so I'll be closer to 6'3", then I'm asking for a raise! :-)

I'm wondering if this is really taller "people" or taller men. In my experience, men are happier to be taller. Shorter than average men tend to be unhappy to be short. Women, on the other hand, go either way. I'm 5'2" and, while I'd like to be taller, I'm certainly not stigmatized by my height. I have a good friend who is 6' and I think she'd like to be shorter. I wouldn't say our happiness is affected by our height and I'd be surprised if our salaries were. I wonder if the results would be the same if the same set of data were applied to women.

I'd agree that it's probably short men that are the unhappy ones. It probably has a lot to do with attracting the opposite sex. 20/20 did a study some years ago where they presented a line-up of men to a group of women and asked them who they preferred. The tall guys won all the time, even if the short guy was said to have all the other attributes women generally prefer: more money, good sense of humour, etc. So, you could see how this would effect smaller men. I'm 5'7" and reasonably happy.

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