Do Men Tell Tall Tales About Their Height?

More Men Than Women Overstate Their Height, Study Shows

From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 23, 2005 -- More men than women overstate their height.

The finding comes from a study of 200 parents (100 men and 100 women). The parents, who were about 38 years old and lived in the U.K., were asked how tall they are.

"On average, males overestimated height while females reported their height relatively accurately," write the researchers in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

How far off were the men's estimates? That varied, but 27% overestimated their height by an inch or more, compared with 13% of the women, the study shows.

Why Does It Matter?

Parents' height is often used to help predict a child's future height. Based on this study, it might be worth double-checking parents' self-reported height.

"We recommend that efforts should be made to measure both parents at the earliest opportunity and record their heights in the child health record," write the researchers. They included W.F. Paterson of the child health department at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow, Scotland.

Some past studies have shown that men overestimate their height while women underreport their height. But this time, women were pretty much on the mark, note Paterson and colleagues.

The parents were recruited when they brought their children to outpatient health clinics. Parents' height was measured on the spot.

Blame Metric System?

Why might full-grown adults misstate their height? Does it reflect self-esteem, genuine confusion, or something else? The study doesn't settle that, but it notes a possible reason.

Most participants gave their height in feet and inches, rounding it off to the nearest half inch. The researchers then switched those numbers to the nearest 0.1 centimeter and compared them with parents' actual height.

"Clearly, this discrepancy between units of measurement may account for some of the difference between measured and reported height," write the researchers.

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SOURCE: Cizmecioglu, F. Archives of Disease in Childhood, September 2005; vol 90: pp 941-942.
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