BEING tall can make you feel happier and healthier, research suggested yesterday.
A study of almost 15,000 people found that those who are taller reported having a better quality of life and better physical and mental wellbeing compared to those who are shorter.
And the research predicted that people could significantly boost their feelings of healthiness if they could add just a few centimetres to their height.
Many of the most successful celebrities and sports stars in the UK also boast long legs and a tall stature.
The latest study, published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology, used data from the 2003 Health Survey for England which included information on height.
The survey also measured health- related quality of life, by asking the volunteers how they felt about their mobility, pain, anxiety and depression.
The researchers, based in Denmark, found that people in the shortest category – under 162cm (5ft 3in) for men and 151cm (4ft 9in) for women – came out with significantly lower quality-of-life scores than those of a normal height.
The average height in the study was 175cm (5ft 7in) for men and 161cm (5ft 2in) for women.
The researchers said that the shorter people are, the worse their perceived quality of life. And they predicted that increasing height could help boost feelings of wellbeing. If men could add just 7cm (2.7in) to their height and women 6cm (2.3in), their health-related quality of life could improved by 6.1 per cent.
This is an equivalent improvement to an obese person losing 10-15kg (22-33lb).
Being short as an adult can be the result of normal development or due to diseases such as growth hormone deficiency or Turner syndrome.
Treatments are available for children with restricted growth which can boost their adult height by between 4-10cm (1.6-3.9in).
The new study could be useful for drugs watchdogs calculating the cost- effectiveness of extending treatments for youngsters with slower growth.
Researcher Torsten Christensen, from healthcare company Novo Nordisk, said: “We know that people who are short experience more difficulties in areas of their life such as education, employment and relationships than people of normal height. However, the relationship between height and psychosocial well-being is not well understood.”
Mr Christensen said that using the large sample of the UK population, they had shown that shorter people said they experienced lower physical and mental wellbeing than taller people.
“Our results also indicate that the shorter someone is, the stronger this relationship becomes. For example, an increase in height of 3cm (1.2in) would have a positive impact on the health-related quality of life of a short person, whereas the effect of an extra 3cm would be negligible for a person of normal height.”
Mr Christensen said although the study did not show that being short directly caused a reduction in physical and mental health, it did indicate short people were more likely to feel that they experienced a lower quality of life.
“However, further research is now needed to clarify the precise relationship between changes in height and health- related quality of life,” he said.
Gary Butler, a professor of paediatrics and growth at the University of Reading, said that there was also biological evidence that taller people enjoyed better health and lived longer.
He said that drugs regulators in Europe were currently considering whether growth hormone treatment should be made available to more children showing signs of slower growth.
But Prof Butler said there were issues to be addressed in society about how shorter people are perceived. “This kind of study and the publicity it generates does not give a good message for people in society. It reaffirms the feeling that shorter people are less healthy and do not do so well in life.
“But the fact is that once you are an adult, there is nothing that can be done to increase height. Giving treatment to more children and teenagers to increase height also raises ethical concerns such as accusations of social engineering and potential effects on health,” Prof Butler said.