Paul Little: Tripping the height fantastic

John Key is an elf next to towering Sam Whitelock, but who's the boss. Photo / Getty Images
John Key is an elf next to towering Sam Whitelock, but who's the boss. Photo / Getty Images

NCd-RisC is not the exciting forensic crime-solving drama its name suggests. It's an international research organisation and lately it has been poking its nose into your height.

The results have been published in their report A Century of Trends in Adult Human Height. Height is an emotionally charged issue because, of all our physical characteristics, it is the only one over which we have no control. We can build muscle, lose fat and have procedures to put hair back where it used to be. We can even try to defeat signs of ageing. But nothing makes you taller or shorter.

The reason we were captivated by the photo of an apparently giant Sam Whitelock looming over a teeny John Key last year is height is an important indicator of power. In that photo roles are reversed so the powerful person (the PM) is reduced to the stature of an elf.

The results show New Zealanders haven't changed much.

We used to have the 29th-tallest men out of 200 countries, now we rank 30th. Our women were once the world's 24th-tallest, now they are the 25th.

The average height of Americans stopped increasing about 20 years ago - unlike their average weight. Like Auckland, they have been growing out instead of up. So there's another job for Donald Trump - make America tall again.

If you want to be tall don't be poor, malnourished or live in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia. To which we should probably add parts of South Auckland.

Ladies, if you want to increase your chances of nabbing a man you can look up to, move to the Netherlands (183cm). And guys, if a little lady is what you're after, Guatemala is your best bet (150cm).

The biggest increases in average height over the past 100 years were in Iran for men and South Korea for women.

Behind all the analysis is an almost subconscious assumption taller is better. Yet being tall has disadvantages often lost on those of lesser stature. Tall people, for instance, never get lost in a crowd. This can be handy at a concert, but is a hassle if you are trying to get lost in a crowd.

They are at risk of numerous psychological wounds , not least the phenomenon parents have noticed for the past 20 years - that their freakishly enlarged children will be loftier than they. The authority gained from being taller is lost to them as a form of parental control.

Tall people of either gender are flat out not permitted to dance in public. (If only this stopped them.)

And although elevated stature is generally regarded in a positive light, a couple of stereotypes work in the opposite direction, such as that of the canny wee person and the clumsy big oaf, which is probably what you're supposed to think when you see that Key-Whitelock photo.

A little-known characteristic of tall people is that they absolutely detest taller people. It's galling to be overtaken as the highest thing at the party.

Perhaps we should get over our obsession with height. There used to be good evolutionary reasons for people to get taller over time - it is easier to spot both prey and predators on the savannahs.

But height is of absolutely no advantage in finding Pokemon.

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 23 Oct 2016 02:01:13 Processing Time: 349ms