What Height Is Considered Short, And Why Does It Even Matter?

By the time you hit your preteen years, height turns into an important physical aspect that starts asserting its impact on your social as well as your scholastic life. And once this ball starts rolling, it never really stops.

In fact, it’s not only you but also those around you who fuss about just how tall or short you are. Add to this the fact that there are also cultural and genetic variables in this equation, and it is easy to understand why so many people wonder what height is considered short.

Continue reading to know the answer to this question and to understand why people seem so obsessed with height, their own, and that of others.

We didn’t start the fire, but those before us sure did!

Our obsession with height can be traced back to our wild-living (literally cavemen living in the wild) ancestors when the outcome of a duel between man and man or man and animal would inevitably be favorable for the taller and bigger guy/gal.

This led us to equate height with greater physical strength and competence. Over time, physical stature also became a yardstick for the kind of socio-economic background a person came from. After all, height is a compound number that derives from multiple factors such as early nutrition, health, environment, and of course, genetics.

So, if a person was tall, it simply meant that he had ample to eat as a child and as an adolescent and hence came from a family of some means. Not to mention that he/she must have also been healthy in his/her early life hence there were no indications of nutritional deficiencies which would have stunted growth.

The rise of physical stature!

At some point, all of the above mixed together to create the impression that the tallest person in the room was also the strongest, healthiest, most competent, most intelligent, and of course, among the most financially stable.

Now, isn’t that the textbook definition of a desirable partner? So, the taller guys walked away with the gals while their shorter friends were left smarting at the inadequacy of their physical stature.

It goes without saying that this impacted their self-esteem and as the wheels of time kept churning, this turned into such a common and widespread social phenomenon that it led to a lack of confidence in those who lacked the few inches that would put them in the league of the average or taller than average height range.

While women had it easy at first, there came a time when girls started looking up to the tall, statuesque beauties as supermodels cat walked their way onto our screens. And as things stand today, there is actually talk about how the height of a candidate impacts his/her chances of winning the presidential berth.

So, do men and women truly make a beeline for the tall and handsome/gorgeous?

Well, women sure do! Perhaps this phenomenon is rooted in a woman’s evolutionary desire to seek out the strongest and the fittest mate for herself. Since height is linked to good physical health and, as discussed above, also to the perception of financial well-being (more on this coming up), it’s true that women have an undeniable preference for tall men.

In fact, the fairer sex is more rigid on this point than their masculine counterparts. For instance, while most men are happy being around 3 inches taller than their partner, women prefer their partner to be about 8 inches taller than them.

What’s more, nearly 50% of women prefer to only date men who are taller than them, while only 13.5% of men seek out a partner who is shorter than them. Also, about 23% of men are accepting of the idea of a taller partner. But, only 4% of women are comfortable being with men who are shorter than them.

Does height really matter all that much?

Yes, it does! Height affects not just romantic prospects but also professional and financial prospects. Economists have long spoken about how those with a few more inches on them than the average tend to make more money and be more successful at work. Take a look at how much of a difference it actually makes:

1. Taller associates with richer: A recent study actually put a percentage value on this so-called height premium. It was found that for both men and women, a mere one inch more in height is associated with 1.4% to 2.9% higher wages.

Another study took this a few steps further with the findings that the 1-inch increase in height actually links to nearly $800 earned more per year. So, the difference in the annual earnings of a person who stands 6 feet tall vis á vis an individual who measures 5 feet 7 inches would be $4000. Calculate the difference over a 30-year period, and you arrive at a whopping $120,000, and that’s not adjusted for interest or inflation. But that’s not all of it.

2. Height is also associated with academic credentials: Several studies have also pointed to taller individuals being better educated. In fact, many experts consider this to be one possible cause for higher earnings.

Because job profile is attributed to academic credentials, it comes as no surprise that one study found people in white-collar jobs have an inch over those in blue-collar jobs. Surprisingly, this trend is not restricted to just the US or even a specific gender.

Shockingly, the trend holds even when the subjects are not random strangers. In a Swedish Study, it was found that even among siblings and members of the same household, the taller family member was inevitably better educated. And, it gets worse from hereon.

3. Taller equates to feeling better: In a survey on self-reported health that included over 165,000 American participants, short men reported being less healthy than average height and tall men. The study revealed that this effect on health also rubbed off on the partner/spouse of a person.

Women married to shorter men reported feeling less healthy than those married to tall men. Of course, this could be attributed to poorer socio-economic conditions, which are also connected to the height of a person.

Height and health: Is there truly a correlation?

Even if you were to ignore the study involving self-reported wellness, the fact is that being tall does have a few health-related perks. This is not to say that there are no drawbacks to being Mr/Ms. Longlegs, but let’s keep that for later.

1. The taller you are, the better for your ticker: In a recent study, it was found that being tall is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular health issues such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and hypertension.

2. Good for the brain, too: Through a comparatively smaller study, it was found that men who are 5 feet 11 inches or taller have a 60% lower risk of suffering from dementia.

3. The metabolism has it good too: A study that ran over a 5-year period and involved 6000 subjects also showed a link between the length of the legs and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Researchers observed that taller individuals were less likely to suffer from diabetes.

4. Keeping a full head of hair: In what seems like a double whammy from Nature, short men are more likely to suffer from male pattern baldness. So, while tall men don’t have a lower risk of going bald, short men do have a higher risk of losing their crowning glory in their early years.

Having said all of that, the few inches more also come with their own set of health concerns. The longer limbs that go with the territory equate to longer blood vessels and, of course, more nerve connections to reach the digits.

So, people who are taller than average often run the risk of peripheral neuropathy as well as circulatory disorders such as varicose veins and thrombosis. Taller women have it just as bad, with an increased risk of non-specific nerve disorders as well as asthma. They also tend to have longer pregnancies.

Being of average height is the best, then?

Well, that question would have a highly subjective answer as both sides of the height spectrum have their share of pros and cons. But it does bring us to what is called average and if this so-called average is universally applicable.

In terms of an average worldwide height range, nearly 95% of all men across the world stand somewhere between 5 feet 4 inches and 6 feet 3inches, while for women, this average range is 5 feet to 5 feet 11 inches.

Now, the difference of 7 and 11 inches, respectively, across these ranges is undoubtedly significant. However, it’s attributed to the wide variation in the mean height of both men and women from one country to another.

So, what is termed as the average height for men and women across the world?

If you are thinking of a global mean, according to the WHO, this average stands at 5 feet 9.5 inches (176.5 cm) for men and 5 feet 4.3 inches (163 cm) for women.

However, these are expected and not actual figures based on sampling. If you were to calculate the mean of the average height of men and women from all countries across the globe, you’d get this:

· Global average height of men: 5 feet 7.3 inches (171 cm)

· Global average height of women: 5 feet 2.8 inches (159.5 cm)

In terms of the mean average height of people from different countries, Timor comes up the shortest with an average male height of 160 cm (around 5 feet 3 inches) and the Netherlands comes up the tallest with an average height of 182 cm (5 feet 11.7 inches).

As far as regions go, South Asia has the lowest average height of 165 cm (around 5 feet 5 inches), while Central Asia and Europe have the highest average height of 177 cm (5 feet 9.7 inches).

When it comes to women, Guatemala comes in the shortest with an average height of 149 cm (4 feet 10.6 inches), while Latvia comes in the tallest with an average height of 169 cm (5 feet 6.5 inches). As for men, for women too, South Asia has the lowest average height of 153 cm (a bit over 5 feet), while Central Asia and Europe have the highest average height of 164 cm (5 feet 4.6 inches).

What is the average height of men and women in the USA?

A massive study conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination between 1999 and 2016 revealed a startling fact- the average mean height of Americans has actually decreased.

Another study reported that the increase in the average height of Americans has been slower than people from other countries. In 1914, American men were the third tallest and women the fourth tallest in the world.

However, at this time, American men rank at 37th while women rank at 42nd on a global scale. That said, the average height also changes across the age group, albeit slightly. With all that considered, here is what the figures look like in the United States.

· In the age group of 20 to 39 years: The average height for men is 176.1 cm (5 feet 9.3 inches) and for women is 162.7 (5 feet 4 inches).

· In the age group of 40 to 59 years: The average height for men is 175.8 (5 feet 9.2 inches) and for women is 162.1 (5 feet 3.8 inches).

· In the age group of 60 years and above: The average height for men is 173.4 (5 feet 8.3 inches) and for women is 159.3 (5 feet 2.7 inches).

As far as the decrease in mean height went, women have had it worse, with a significant reduction from 162.1 cm to 161.4 cm between 1999 and 2016.

So, what height is considered short for men?

This depends on the mean height of a specific country. Anything below two standard deviations would be considered short. Let’s consider the example of the United States, where the mean height for men is 5 feet 9 inches. Anything 2 inches below this would be considered short, so a height of 5 feet 7 inches or lower would be considered short.

Of course, this would change if you were to go to a country with a mean height of 5 feet 5 inches. Here, a man who stands 5 feet 7 inches would actually be considered tall. Along the same lines, in the Netherlands, where the mean height for men is almost 6 feet, a man with the mean American height of 5 feet 9 inches would be considered short.

So, what height is considered short for women?

The rule is the same even for women when it comes to what height is considered short. Two standard deviations below the mean, and you would be considered short. So, in the US, any woman who measures 5 feet 2 inches or below would be considered short, while any lady who stands above 5 feet 6 inches would be considered tall.

What do the average height figures look like for men and women in different countries?

Country Name Men’s Mean Height (Cm Feet and inches) Women’s Mean Height (Cm Feet and inches)
1 Canada 175.1 5 ft 9 in 162.3 5 ft 4 in
2 Mexico 172 5 ft 7.5 in 159 5 ft 2.5 in
3 Brazil 170.7 5 ft 7 in 158.8 5 ft 2.5 in
4 United Kingdom 175.3 5 ft 9 in 161.9 5 ft 3.5 in
5 Germany 178 5 ft 10 in 165 5 ft 5 in
6 Spain 174 5 ft 8.5 in 163 5 ft 4 in
7 Norway 179.9 5 ft 11 in 167.1 5 ft 6 in
8 Iran 173.4 5 ft 8.5 in 159.9 5 ft 3 in
9 Israel 177 5 ft 9.5 in  166 5 ft 5 in
10 Turkey 173.6 5 ft 8.5 in 161.9 5 ft 3.5 in
11 South Africa 168 5 ft 6 in 159 5 ft 2.5 in
12 Nigeria 163.8 5 ft 4.5 in 157.8 5 ft 2 in
13 India 165 5 ft 5 in 152 5 ft 0 in
14 Russia 176.4 5 ft 9.5 in 164.3 5 ft 4.5 in
15 China (20-24 years) 172.6 5 ft 8 in 160.6 5 ft 3 in
16 Japan 172 5 ft 7.5 in 158 5 ft 2 in
17 Philippines 163.5 5 ft 4.5 in 151.8 5 ft 0 in
18 Malaysia 163.3 5 ft 4.5 in 151.9 5 ft 0 in
19 Australia 175.6 5 ft 9 in 161.8 5 ft 3. 5 in
20 New Zealand 177 5 ft 9.5 in 164 5 ft 4.5 in

But wait a minute- isn’t tall or short also a matter of personal height bias?

Indeed, it is! For instance, if you are a man who is 5 feet 7 inches tall in a stadium in SE Asia where most other men around you are likely to come up an inch or two shorter than you, to their eyes, you will be a tall man, simply because they are shorter than you.

And this principle holds true even when it comes to one on one associations. For instance, a woman of average height (5 feet 4 inches) would be dwarfed by a man who stands very tall at 6 feet 3 inches. And it’s not just the onlookers who would notice the difference. Even the man in question would term her as a short woman, although in reality, she is of average height.

Similarly, a woman who stands tall at 5 feet 9 inches would find a man who is 5 feet 11 of average height, while a man, who is as tall as she is, would seem short to her when in reality, he is of average height. So, you see how personal biases influence the perception of height?

But what if you are not tall enough to be in the average range?

If you are still in your early teens, you can try to beat what your genes hold for you with proper exercise and nutrition. But, once those joints set in their place, there is nothing non-intrusive that can be done to actually increase your height. However, it is possible to make yourself appear tall. Here is how:

1. Start with the spine: Slouching is a big culprit when it comes to shaving inches off your actual physical height. Unfortunately, the rounded shoulder, forward-leaning neck, and curved upper spine with the belly thrust forward have become hallmarks of this cell phone age.

The good news is that with a conscious effort, affordable gadgets, and a good exercise regimen, it is actually possible to stand straight and tall. In fact, you can add as much as 2-3 inches to your height (or the perception of it) simply by not slouching.

2. Keep your weight in check: The chubbier you are, the shorter and more rounded you will look, not to mention that short and stout is a dangerous combination for your heart.

3. A few for the ladies: An updo with a hair insert of one or two inches can actually add that much height to your overall physical stature. Of course, a pair of high heels work just as well. Combine the two, and you could easily get about 4-5 inches.

4. Insoles work for all: Shoe inserts can help you to add 2 to 3 inches to your height. Plus, they come in a variety of materials, so you can definitely find a pair that gives you the aesthetic results you seek while keeping your feet comfortable.

5. Dress for height: Monochromatic dressing and vertical stripes are your best fashion buddies if you want to create the perception of length and height.

6. Stay away from clothes that make you look broader: That’s pretty much anything that does not have a snug fit. Loose and baggy fits will add horizontal inches to your frame, and in doing so, they will deduct those many vertical inches from your height.

And last but certainly not least!

Yes, this article discusses what height is considered short, and by now, you should have the answer to that one no matter in what part of the world you are in. But what’s coming next needs to be said before you tap into your inner Tyrion Lannister.

Did you know that the short stature of 5 feet 1 inch (wide discrepancies on that one) could not stop Genghis Khan from establishing his dominion over the world? Also, some of the most well-paid stars in Hollywood happen to be the shortest people in tinsel town; think Robert Downey Jr, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lopez, and others.

And in that list, of course, Peter Dinklage deserves a notable mention, but his is not a case of just short stature.

Above all, none of this is to boost your morale but to establish one simple fact- At the end of the day, it is your attitude, skill/talent, and mindset that make you tall in your own eyes.

And no matter what the world perceives your height to be, if you are standing tall in your own mind and in your eyes, then you are indeed a tall man or woman, and over time your confidence will impact those around you.