Posts Tagged ‘i want to be tall’

What Happened to America’s Height Advantage?

December 11, 2008

What happened to America’s height advantage?
Posted 7/15/2007 12:31 PM

By Matt Crenson, Associated Press
NEW YORK — America used to be the tallest country in the world.

From the days of the founding fathers right on through the industrial revolution and two world wars, Americans literally towered over other nations. In a land of boundless open spaces and limitless natural abundance, the young nation transformed its increasing wealth into human growth.

But just as it has in so many other arenas, America’s predominance in height has faded. Americans reached a height plateau after World War II, gradually falling behind the rest of the world as it continued growing taller.

By the time the baby boomers reached adulthood in the 1960s, most northern and western European countries had caught up with and surpassed the United States. Young adults in Japan and other prosperous Asian countries now stand nearly as tall as Americans do.

Even residents of the formerly communist East Germany are taller than Americans today. In Holland, the tallest country in the world, the typical man now measures 6 feet, a good two inches more than his average American counterpart.

Compare that to 1850, when the situation was reversed. Not just the Dutch but all the nations of western Europe stood 2½ inches shorter than their American brethren.

Does it really matter? Does being taller give the Dutch any advantage over say, the Chinese (men 5 feet, 4.9 inches; women 5 feet, 0.8 inches) or the Brazilians (men 5 feet, 6.5 inches; women 5 feet, 3 inches)?

Many economists would argue that it does matter, because height is correlated with numerous measures of a population’s well-being. Tall people are healthier, wealthier and live longer than short people. Some researchers have even suggested that tall people are more intelligent.

It’s not that being tall actually makes you smarter, richer or healthier. It’s that the same things that make you tall — a nutritious diet, good prenatal care and a healthy childhood — also benefit you in those other ways.

That makes height a good indicator for economists who are interested in measuring how well a nation provides for its citizens during their prime growing years. With one simple, easily collected statistic, economists can essentially measure how well a society prepares its children for life.

“This is the part of the society that usually eludes economists, because economists are usually thinking about income. And this is the part of the society that doesn’t earn an income,” said John Komlos, an economic historian at the University of Munich who was born in Hungary, grew up in Chicago, and has spent the last quarter century compiling data on the heights of nations.

Height tells you about a segment of the population that is invisible to traditional economic statistics. Children don’t have jobs or own houses. They don’t buy durable goods, or invest in the stock market. But obviously, investments in their well-being are critical to a nation’s economic future.

For several years now, Komlos and other researchers have been trying to figure out exactly why the United States fell behind. How could the wealthiest country in the world, during the most robust economic expansion in its history, simply stop growing?

“It’s absolutely fascinating,” said Eileen Crimmins, a demographer at the University of Southern California. “Maybe we’ve reached the point where we’re going to go backwards in height.”

Like many human traits, an individual’s height is determined by a mix of genes and environment. Some experts put the contribution of genes at 40%, some at 70%, some even higher. But they all agree that aside from African pygmies and a few similar exceptions, most populations have about the same genetic potential for height.

That leaves environment to determine the differences in height between populations around the world, specifically the environment children experience from the moment of conception through adolescence. Any deficiency along the way, from poor prenatal care to early childhood disease or malnutrition, can prevent a person from reaching his or her full genetic height potential.

“We know environment can affect heights by three, four, five inches,” said Richard H. Steckel, an Ohio State University economist who has also done research on height trends in the United States during the 19th century.

The earliest stages of life are the most important to the human growth machine; at age 2 there is already about a 70% correlation between a child’s height and his or her eventual adult stature.

All of this means a population’s average height is a very sensitive indicator of its most vulnerable members’ welfare.

Not surprisingly, rich countries tend to be taller simply because they have more resources to spend on feeding and caring for their children. But wealth doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a society will give its children what they need to thrive.

In the Czech Republic, per capita income is barely half of what it is in the United States. Even so, Czechs are taller than Americans. So are Belgians, who collect 84% as much income as Americans.

And those height differences translate into real benefits. A number of studies have shown that disease and malnutrition early in life — the same things that limit a person’s height — increase a person’s chances of developing heart disease and other life-shortening conditions later on. Though tall people are more likely to get cancer, they suffer less mortality overall than short people.

International statistics bear it out. Life expectancy in the Netherlands is 79.11 years; in Sweden it’s 80.63. America’s life expectancy of 78.00 years puts it in somewhat shorter company, just above Cyprus and a few notches below Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“Obviously America is not doing badly. It’s not at the level of developing nations,” Komlos said. “But it’s also not doing as well as it could.”

His latest research paper, published in the June issue of Social Science Quarterly, suggests the blame may lie with America’s poor diet and its expensive, inequitable health care system.

“American children might consume more meals prepared outside of the home, more fast food rich in fat, high in energy density and low in essential micronutrients,” wrote Komlos and co-author Benjamin E. Lauderdale of Princeton University. “Furthermore, the European welfare states provide a more comprehensive social safety net including universal health care coverage.”

In the United States, by comparison, an estimated 9 million children have no health insurance.

Komlos’ most recent data indicate a small uptick in the heights of white Americans born between 1975 and 1983, a suggestion that the gap may finally be closing. But there has been no similar increase among blacks, a suggestion that inequality may indeed play a significant role in the height gap.

In another recent paper, Komlos and Lauderdale also found height inequality between American urbanites and residents of suburbs and rural areas. In Kansas, for example, white males are about as tall as their European peers; it’s big cities like New York, where men are about 1.75 inches shorter than that, that drag America’s average down.

Now Komlos has started comparing the heights of children to determine at what age Americans begin falling behind their peers across the Atlantic. Not surprisingly, he sees a difference from birth, an observation that suggests prenatal care may be significant contributor factor to the height gap.

But it is unlikely that Komlos will ever find one simple factor to explain why Americans have fallen behind other rich countries in height. In all likelihood it is caused by a combination of things — a little bit health care, some diet, a sprinkling of economic inequality.

“In some ways it gets to the fundamentals of the American society, namely what is the ideology of the American society and what are the shortcomings of that ideology,” Komlos said. “I would argue that to take good care of its children is not part of that ideology.”

Whether that’s true is debatable; the height gap doesn’t measure how much Americans love their children. But at a minimum it does indicate — in raw feet and inches — whether the nation is giving its youngsters what they need to reach their full biological potential, or selling them short.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Natural Height? Stretch it out!

December 9, 2008

This video shows you simple exercises that will help you naturally increase your height by standing up straighter! Another safe and effective way to grow taller.

The Height of Success

December 5, 2008

By SCOTT STOSSEL
Published: November 5, 2006

SIZE MATTERS

How Height Affects the Health,

Happiness, and Success of Boys —

and the Men They Become.

By Stephen S. Hall.

388 pp. Houghton Mifflin. $26.

To the many indignities visited upon shorter than average males — lower incomes, disadvantage in mate selection, cut rates for their deposits at the local sperm bank, long odds of making the N.B.A. — has now been added this one: short people are stupider than tall people. That’s the finding of a recent study by two Princeton economists who conclude, painfully for those of us who are south of 5 feet 9 inches, that the reason taller people make more money is that they are smarter.

That finding was published too late to make it into Stephen Hall’s provocative book, but it’s in keeping with the litany of obstacles arrayed against short men that he documents in ”Size Matters.” Consider the very word ”stature.” Its primary definition refers to physical height, but it can also connote everything from presence and charisma to virtue and importance; on a metaphorical level, height and worthiness of esteem are linked in the human mind. ”Nobility of soul accompanies tallness of body,” wrote one 18th-century German physician, reflecting the conventional wisdom of the time. Repeated studies in the modern era have shown that people unconsciously ascribe positive qualities to the tall: in addition to being deemed more intelligent, tall people are automatically considered more likable, more dependable and more commanding. It seems that benefits accrue to the tall beginning almost from birth, and then keep accruing, leading to what is, generally speaking, a society where the tall lead and the short follow — an ”altocracy,” as Hall puts it. Only 3 of 43 American presidents — James Madison, Benjamin Harrison and Martin Van Buren — have been under 5 feet 7 inches, and it is well known that the taller of two presidential candidates usually wins the election.

The association of height with cultural desirability and even existential value has deep historical roots. The Roman historian Tacitus, writing in the first century A.D., associated height with both strength and moral virtue. Drawing on Tacitus and his successors, King Frederick William of Prussia became obsessed with recruiting — and breeding — an army of behemoths in the early 1700’s. His so-called Potsdam Giants regiment was led by a man reported to be over 7 feet tall, and included at least one mercenary well over 8 feet; none of the Giants were under 6 feet. (James Tanner, the dean of human growth studies, has observed that this was probably the tallest group of men assembled before the advent of professional basketball in America.) Other militaries emulated Frederick (taller soldiers had longer strides, could thrust their bayonets farther, and had an easier time reloading their long rifles) and Hall argues that it was at this point in history — when tall soldiers were more coveted than shorter ones — that the market (and moral) value of height first became institutionalized.

As a man of a mere 5 feet 5 and three-quarters inches himself, Hall is on something of a quest, seeking not just to understand the science and culture of stature but also to come to terms with what the cartoonist Garry Trudeau has called his ”inner shrimp” — that distinctive ”I’m smaller than the rest of the world so I hope I don’t get beaten up” outlook that is imprinted at an early age and never dispelled, no matter what our final adult heights. Mixing traditional science reporting with personal anecdote, Hall ranges widely across popular culture and the scientific literature to explore such issues as what the average height of a population can reveal about culture and society (Why are the Dutch so tall? And why are Americans becoming relatively shorter?), and how the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of human growth hormone as a ”treatment” for undersize children in 2003 changed the politics and science of height. Here’s an interesting philosophical question: If what matters psychologically is relative height, by treating short children with growth hormone, aren’t we creating a whole new class of undersize ”victims,” the untreated kids they surpass in height? Have we launched an arms race of avoiding shortness? If so, it’s not hard to understand why. As Hall puts it, height matters because ”it clearly has an impact on social perceptions, romantic interactions, workplace hierarchies and our self-perception long after we’ve stopped growing.”

Article continues here: NY Times

Limb lengthening tests human will power

December 2, 2008

Patients endure unimaginable pain
for a few inches

Growing pains
Christy Ruhe stood 4-foot-3 before choosing to undergo a leg-lengthening process that broke her bowed legs, then stretched and straightened them to make her seven inches taller.
See pictures from her painful, but gratifying experience.

By Gretchen Parker, AP

Limb-lengthening surgery is controversial among dwarfs, and it is painful. Still, many choose to undergo the bone-breaking and difficult therapy to gain inches in height. One patient who made this decision, Christy Ruhe, allowed an Associated Press reporter and photographer to closely follow her two-year progress. This is her story.

PICKERINGTON, Ohio – The tiny, silver BMW roadster slides out of the garage and zips toward the freeway. Christy Ruhe adjusts the rearview mirror and rests one hand on the steering wheel. The car, her dad’s, is a perfect fit. She looks like she’s been driving it forever.

Two years ago, she couldn’t have reached the pedals.

Christy recently finished a procedure that surgically broke her bowed legs, then stretched and straightened them, an agonizingly painful ordeal that would leave even her questioning how much she could endure.

Once 4-foot-3, she’s now just 2 inches shy of 5 feet tall.

She had always craved just a few more inches. Enough to drive any car and pump her own gas, or reach the pedals under the piano. Practical things, but seven inches would accomplish so much more.

To understand why Christy would put herself through the grueling surgeries and therapy is to understand a spirit determined to be as independent as possible.

Continue reading this story at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4242093/