Being short may be considered a disadvantage in the boardroom and the bedroom, but it does have health advantages. According to new research, the vertically-challenged live longer than their taller colleagues.

Scientists have found that the hormone which controls height, called the Insulin-like Growth Factor, also controls ageing. A low level of IGF means a longer life expectancy. Evolutionary biologist Dr Armand Leroi, of Imperial College, Berkshire, who is leading the research, says: "For humans, it's increasingly evident that our notion that big is good is not necessarily right." This may be great news for Danny DeVito and Geri Halliwell, but in the tall-versus-small stakes there has been much debate over the years as to who is likely to encounter more problems, physically and psychologically, through life.

Theories have abounded that poor people are shorter due to generations of malnutrition and therefore have a shorter life expectancy, but few people in the Western world are malnourished.

However, there is evidence to show that youngsters brought up in an atmosphere of domestic rows and bitter divorces are almost twice as likely to be shorter than their peers, by the age of seven. While many catch up during their teenage years, others are stunted for life and are more likely to be unemployed, depressed or sick as adults.

In 1900 the average adult male was 5ft 5in tall. By 1970 a better diet meant that he had jumped to 5ft 9in and since then he has grown an inch, which means that by 2036 the average man will be 6ft. So, how are the short and the tall likely to fare against each other in health and happiness?


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HEALTH: Latest evidence shows they live longer than tall people. However, earlier research found associations between the distribution of fat in the limbs and the trunk and a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and non-insulin dependent diabetes. That might put shorter people slightly more at risk. Another theory is that smaller people have smaller coronary arteries than their taller colleagues, which are therefore more prone to clogging up and causing vascular problems.

PSYCHOLOGICAL: "Some small people are overly aggressive to make up for their lack of height," says Dr George Fieldman, lecturer in psychology at Chilterns University College.

CAREER: Short men are almost twice as likely to be manual workers as their taller counterparts, according to a study of 7,500 men from Guildford in Surrey to Falkirk in Scotland, over 17 years. Bosses may be slightly disparaging or dismissive of short people, other studies have revealed. Many women get around this in-built prejudice by wearing high heels.

ROMANCE: Is not as easy for shorter men. "You tend to find that such people are very gifted in some field or are extremely powerful in their own right, this can more than make up for their lack of height," says Dr Nick Neave, lecturer in psychology at the University of Northumbria. Research at Poland's Wroclaw University shows that smaller men are reproductively less successful than taller men.


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HEALTH: Studies have found tall men may be at greater risk of prostate cancer. Taller and heavier women are more at risk of breast cancer. Children who grow fast at an early stage and adults who are well over 6ft may experience muscular and skeletal pain. Tall women who are embarrassed about their height often slouch to disguise it, causing neck, back and knee injuries. Back complaints are costing 70 million working days a year because Britain is failing to make room for growing generations, according to the Tall Persons Club. So, desk sizes remain small and beds not long enough for tall people, which results in health problems.

PSYCHOLOGICAL: "Tall people who look fearsome and demanding may try to be overly soft and cuddly or alternatively exploit the fear in others," says Fieldman. Many tall youngsters suffer cruel taunts from contemporaries and feel constrained from reacting by the expectations of the adults around them. As they are visibly bigger, they are perceived as the bully, not the victim, if they hit back.

CAREER: Tall men are better paid than their shorter colleagues. Tall women in sales earn 15 per cent more than their colleagues, according to a survey by London's Guildhall University. Tall women also have a better chance of promotion, says a study by Helsinki University.

ROMANCE: Women are drawn to taller men because they see them as more attractive and believe they have better genes and more potential for success and power. Men are drawn to women shorter than themselves because then they remain the dominant partner in appearance