Genetics Study: Fat and short earn less
A new study from researchers at the University of Exeter has revealed that being a shorter man or a more overweight woman leads to lower chances in life, including a lower income. The findings that were published in the British Medical Journal yesterday, involved genetic data from almost 120,000 people aged between 40 and 70. Researchers studied 400 genetic variants that are associated with height, and 70 associated with body mass index.Short men and overweight women earn less than those who are taller and slimmer and it could be due to discrimination, experts say.The study looked at the genetics of people who are short or overweight found they earned less than their taller and slimmer colleagues and “obsession with body image” could be to blame.Experts already know that people who are shorter and fatter earn less than others, but that was thought to be down to a worse education and poorer nutrition in childhood and early adulthood.Researchers used the genetic variants, together with actual height and weight, and compared them with information on living and income provided by participants from the UK Biobank.The results showed that shorter height led to lower levels of education, lower job status and less income, particularly in men, and higher BMI led to lower income and greater deprivation in women.
Professor Tim Frayling, from the University of Exeter Medical School, who oversaw the work, said: “This is the best available evidence to indicate that your height or weight can directly influence your earnings and other socio-economic factors throughout your life.”The study found that if a man was genetically predetermined to be 3 inches shorter than another man, the shorter man would have an annual income that was USD $1,600 lower.Researchers found that height does not have much of an impact on success for women, but body fat does.Frayling and his team looked at 69 common genetic variants and discovered that if a woman is genetically predetermined to weigh about 14 pounds more than another woman, the heavier woman would have an annual income that is $1,600 less and have a higher level of what experts call Townsend deprivation index, a measure of what you don’t have in life, such as a car or home. “These findings have important social and health implications, supporting evidence that overweight people, especially women, are at a disadvantage and that taller people, especially men, are at an advantage,” the researchers wrote.Frayling is quoted as saying that while the study did not delve into possible causes for the link, modern society’s stereotypes about the ideal body shape and size likely play a role.”There are conscious and subconscious biases about how someone looks,” Frayling said. “Does this factor into employment discrimination when they are interviewed for jobs or try to move up the career ladder?
Social discrimination when it comes to choosing mates?”He also said it will be important to look at internally-driven issues, such as low self-esteem and depression.Frayling emphasised that while the study may sound ominous for short men and overweight women, the study shows an average effect across the population and does not in any way determine one’s fate in life.”There are many, many shorter men and slightly overweight or fat women,” he said, “who do better than their taller and thinner counterparts and peers.” University of Bristol duo of George Davey Smith, a professor of clinical epidemiology, and Neil M. Davies, a research associate in a commentary piece said that a “dynastic effect” could also be at play which refers to the idea that people may have inherited not only their parents’ height or propensity for being overweight but also the consequences of the disadvantages they faced in life due to their stature.The two also pointed out that the desirable body characteristics vary by culture and time and that in some countries having a higher BMI has been associated with more success.The two in interpreting the study said the data was taken from Britain’s Biobank study, which includes a higher percentage of highly educated participants than found in the general population, but many of those with college degrees were dropped from the final analysis due to the way one of the education questions was worded.