Whenever I do a routine physical exam and check a patient’s height, I am always amazed at how interested they are in the result.
No one seems to care about their blood pressure or heart rate, but everyone wants to know their exact height (which they should have a pretty good idea anyway). And they are almost always disappointed. “Oh, I thought I was bigger,” they will say. They often ask me to double check. I’ve never made anyone think they were shorter.
We all tend to exaggerate our height and convince ourselves and others that we are bigger than we really are. But why? At 1.8m tall, I’m relatively tall so it’s easy for me to forgo height issues. As a society, however, we value height.
Research shows that taller people tend to feel more confident and confident, while a survey of Swedish men found that shorter individuals are more at risk of bad mood and suicide.
Height also seems to offer certain social benefits. For example, taller people tend to go to higher education. It is true even when tall and tall people are matched for IQ, suggesting that there must be an unconscious bias at work when selected.
Height also seems to offer certain social benefits. For example, taller people are more likely to go to higher education. It is true even when tall and tall people are matched for IQ, suggesting there must be an unconscious bias at work when selected
This is confirmed by the fact that people over 1.8 meters earn an average of £ 100,000 more over a 30-year career compared to shorter people. In fact, U.S. studies show that larger presidents are more likely to be re-elected than shorter ones.
These benefits undoubtedly stem partly from the ubiquitous tendency to associate height with strength. It is embedded in our language: for example, we look up to people we consider superior, or we look down on people who are inferior.
We therefore want to believe that we are bigger than we really are, because it means we have more authority. In fact, this seems to be stuck in our brain. In a smart experiment with virtual reality headsets, the participants made two ‘virtual’ rides on a Tube train.
The first trip they experienced at their normal height. On the second trip – and without them knowing – the headset was programmed to feel shorter compared to the carriage and other passengers.
When asked how they felt on each trip, participants reported that on the second trip they were aware of increased feelings of inferiority, weakness and incompetence.
They also felt more intimidated by other passengers. This suggests that we have evolved to assume that those that are taller are stronger and more of a threat.
There is a reason for my reflections on the psychology of height this week. For once there is good news for people of smaller stature. People over 6 feet tall have more than double the chance of catching Covid-19, according to research published by data experts led by an Oxford University team.
The researchers said the findings don’t necessarily mean that tall people are more genetically vulnerable to the infection. Instead, they believe the results indicate that Covid-19 spreads through tiny particles called aerosols that linger in the air after they are exhaled. (Tall people are not at greater risk if the virus is spread primarily through sneezing or coughing, causing larger drops to drop quickly to the ground.)
Public health experts have so far ruled out that Covid-19 is airborne, but the World Health Organization is revising “emerging evidence” to the contrary. Whatever your height, you should always walk long and don’t let the lack of inches determine how you feel about yourself.
But if you wish you were taller, here’s a tip: always measure yourself in the morning – we’re bigger when we first wake up because during the day, gravity compresses our spine and shrinks !
If anyone who is overweight loses 5 pounds, it would save the NHS over £ 100 million over the next five years, health secretary Matt Hancock said. Imagine what we could do with that money?
If anyone who is overweight loses 5 pounds, it would save the NHS over £ 100 million over the next five years, Matt Hancock claims
We can treat any cataract in the country. We can do any knee and hip replacement. And that would be just the beginning. Obesity treatment consumes half of the total NHS budget, so what if, instead of just 5 pounds, anyone who was overweight came within a healthy range. We can effectively double what the NHS has to spend. That would be incredible – and we have the strength to make it happen.
Would you take a test to learn if you are at risk of an incurable disease later in life? Scientists have developed a blood test that they say can identify Alzheimer’s disease in its earliest stages.
The test looks for small fragments of a protein that appear in the brains of people with dementia, which begin to circulate in the blood up to 20 years before the onset of symptoms.
This is undoubtedly a great scientific discovery. However, some experts have raised concerns about the ethics of telling someone they are likely to develop the disease.
I personally would not do such a test. Why discover something that will cast a permanent shadow over your life that you cannot help?
Every mistake you made, every time you forgot someone’s name or entered a room and you couldn’t remember why – you would be torturing yourself, it was a sign that dementia was occurring.
It reminds me of a line in the poem by celebrated poet Thomas Gray: “Where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise.”
According to plans announced this week, health and social care budgets can be pooled. This is a wonderful proposal.
The distinction between health and social care is completely arbitrary and causes all kinds of problems. It works against thinking together and prevents patients from being treated holistically – with both their health and social needs.
The NHS is currently trying to protect its own budget by firing patients into social care. But when health problems do arise, the only option is to try to have the patients hospitalized again.
Hopefully a merger will put an end to this pass-the-patient game. For the same reason, I also support the merging of mental health and confidence in general health. There is no reason why the two should be treated separately – it just creates more division and bureaucracy.
But sad to say there is a belief in the NHS – and some doctors are also guilty – that mental health is not “good” medicine, that the patients aren’t really sick. Therefore, their physical health needs are routinely ignored. Still, for example, someone with schizophrenia dies an average of 25 years earlier than those who don’t.
By having separate trusts, we help maintain that stigma surrounding mental illness. And providing mental health is costly and resource-intensive, meaning many of these trusts are in debt.
In recent years there has been talk of ‘parity of esteem’ – that mental health should be treated the same as physical health. Merging mental and general health confidence would be a quick and easy step.
Dr Max prescribes …
While England has struggled to control rising levels of knife and gun crime, Scotland has drastically reduced such crimes over the past 15 years. Journalist and child psychotherapist Kate Silverton presents this fascinating insight into the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, which has taken a radical approach.
Violent crime is treated as a public health problem. This is a thought-provoking documentary about how to tackle crime and the causes of offenses. Something our leaders south of the border should pay attention to. Available on BBC iPlayer.
During this pandemic, and with the increasingly difficult times ahead, there is not much to be optimistic about. But being pessimistic can actually shorten your lifespan.
According to Australian research, pessimists die two years younger than the average person. It is not clear why negativity has such a harmful effect.
According to Australian research, pessimists die two years younger than the average person. It is not clear why negativity has such a harmful effect
It may be because it increases the level of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn increases the risk of diseases such as stroke or heart attacks.
However, the researchers found that being an optimist doesn’t really extend your life, either! However, that is not the most important thing.
Life is so much better when you walk on the sunny side of the street. If you are an optimist you may no longer live, but your life will certainly be more fun. And that’s all that really matters.