The research that says short men and overweight women are at a disadvantage

It might seem a bit retro, but height, and more precisely, an abundance of it, is a characteristic a lot of women still look for in a partner, and for the petite men out there, it can put them at a disadvantage.

Maybe it’s primal, a throwback to our early ancestors, but we’ve done some quick anecdotal research among the women in our life and apparently there’s just something satisfying about a big spoon actually being a big spoon.

Research published recently in medical journal BMJ says “height and body mass index (BMI) play an important role in determining several aspects of a person’s socioeconomic status”.

For men, there is a relationship between height and education, income and job class. More specifically, shorter stature and lower socioeconomic status. The study, based on information from the UK’s Biobank data, found “taller people, especially men, were at an advantage”.

So what are the implications for the petite man? OK, so maybe a long-limbed lady is not on the cards, but how else is this “disadvantage” playing out?

The researchers found “taller stature was strongly correlated with higher household income”.

More specifically, among the 103,000 participants, for every genetically determined 6.3 centimetres greater in height a male was, they earned $2,850 more every year.

Combine that result with similar trends in terms of education levels and job class and you can start to see why size seemingly matters quite a lot.

This research isn’t saying all short men will earn less, but it’s looking at a lot of historical data and has found strong relationships between these factors. Among women, it found size of a different type matters.

Height comparison

What our BMI says about our chances of success

According to the research, people with higher BMIs:

  • Are more likely to finish full-time education at an early age
  • Have lower odds of obtaining a degree
  • Are associated with lower household income

The findings are especially significant for women. For every statistical point of BMI greater a woman was, her annual income was reduced by more than $3,500.

This research can help us understand what needs to change

The authors of the study say understanding these relationships is important because it can help us unlock the answer as to why they exist and their wider implications.

They wrote for The Conversation that the next step is “to understand the factors that lead people who are overweight or short to lower standards of living”.

“Is the link down to low self-esteem or depression, for example? Or is it more to do with discrimination?”

Understanding disadvantage – and what this study proves to be genetic disadvantage – can also help us to be more considerate.

We might be minimising this, but maybe the best thing we can do is date the short guy …