Shorter men and overweight women have lower chances in life such as receiving good education, jobs and salaries, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal in March 1. The researchers from the University of Exeter says the study proves that genes also play a role in receiving low chances, not just consequences of poor nutritional choices and socioeconomic status.

The researchers analysed the 400 genetic variants related to height and 70 related to body mass index (BMI) from  120,000 male and female participants, ages 40 to 70, from the UK Biobank. They found that a man would earn £1,500 (AU$ 2,865) less if he is 7.5 centimetres shorter due to genes rather than poor nutrition.  An overweight woman would also earn £1,500 (AU$ 2,865) less if she is 6.3 kilogrammes heavier than women with lighter weight but same height.

“The genetic analysis we used is the best possible method to test this link outside of randomly altering people’s height and weight for a study, which is obviously impossible,” says lead author Jessica Tyrrell. “Because we used genetics and 120,000 people, this is the strongest evidence to date that there’s something about being shorter as a man and having a higher BMI as a woman that leads to being less well-off financially.”


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According to Tim Frayling, a researcher from the University of Exeter Medical School, “This is the best available evidence to indicate that your height or weight can directly influence your earnings and other socioeconomic factors throughout your life. Although we knew there was a strong association, most people assumed that shorter height and higher BMI were a consequence of poorer nutrition and chances in life. Now we have shown that there is an effect in the other direction as well – shorter height and higher BMI can actually lead to lower income and other lifestyle measures.”

The researchers note that this does not apply to shorter men and overweight women who are successful. Nevertheless, this provides insight about the link between height, BMI, and success.