Tall and handsome

By now, we know that because of some biological reason or other, being tall gives you an advantage, especially if you’re a man. In fact if you’re a short man, you no doubt deal with “humourous” comments every day – that is, unless you’ve snapped and already succumbed to short angry man syndrome. Although even then, they’re probably making “short” jokes when you’re not listening.

Consistent with other research, a new working paper by Italian economists Vincenzo Carrieri and Maria De Paola finds that there is a positive correlation between height and economic and health conditions, which means that taller people tend to be happier. One reason for this positive correlation may be that height is an indicator of good nourishment and health early on in life, which also drives cognitive ability and good health in later life. Other reasons include the possibility that taller people have an advantage in the job market as they are perceived as being successful and good at what they do, and the advantage (particularly for men) in the marriage market.

These effects have all been looked at before, but what is particularly interesting about this paper is that the authors look at specifically look at different age groups. They find that for young Italian men, height has a positive effect on happiness, even after controlling for health and economic status. By contrast, for other age groups, once health and economic status has been taken into account, there is no remaining effect of height on happiness.

They say:

We speculate that the beneficial effect of height on young males’ well-being may be related to the fact that in some countries, such as Italy, and especially for men, height is considered as a proxy for handsomeness.”


Image via Wikipedia

Perhaps for young men who have yet to achieve their career potential and life aspirations, height and handsomeness is especially important for social status.

But if you are a short man living in Italy, take heart from the fact that Berlusconi isn’t, as far as I can tell, especially tall or economically competent. Yet, even the Eurozone crisis can’t seem to stop him grinning.

The paper is here.

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