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Shorter height is associated with a lower income, lower level of education, and poorer job satisfaction, says the recent study, as overweight and short people face social and economic barriers to success because of their size.
Mining biological information from the U.K. Biobank for genetic variants that affect height and BMI from more than 119,000 British people between the ages of 37 and 73, British researchers found that high body mass index is associated with lower income and greater social deprivation, and negatively affects unemployment, car and home ownership, and home overcrowding. The study reveals that these effects are particularly punitive for shorter men and heavier women.
The study, titled “Height, body mass index, and socioeconomic status: mendelian randomisation study in UK Biobank” was published by British Medical Journal in March 2016.
Several studies have previously linked tallness and thinness to higher socioeconomic status in developed countries, but the mere nature of association—whether being tall and thin makes people wealthy, or whether wealthy people grow tall and maintain a slim figure because they can afford better food and health care, for instance—remained a secret.
The connection between high BMI and low socioeconomic status in women was strongest in the areas of income and social deprivation, which hints of workplace discrimination as a leading cause.
“Using genetic information in this way avoids some of the problems that afflict observational studies, making the results less prone to bias and unmeasured confounding factors, and therefore more likely to be reliable,” the authors wrote.
Socio-economic status, for the purposes of this study, was measured in five pillars: the age at which an individual completed full-time education, highest degree obtained, job status, annual household income, and the index of social deprivation.
As estimated by genetics, tallness had a direct effect on higher socioeconomic status in four of the five categories. The most noticeable effect was income level; here, the link for men was two to three times stronger than for women.
Researchers determined that higher BMI causes lower socioeconomic status for women, however, they did not establish connection between high BMI and lower socioeconomic success for men.