So the question seems to be, should everyone get taller? How best to go about the enlargement? Would it work to simply lengthen one's bones? Or, more practically, should I inject my mildly short kid with $50,000 hormones? Actually, before that, are taller people really better off?
In his 1995 song "I Wish," Antoine Roundtree (Skee-Lo) wished he was a little bit taller. He was five-foot-eight, which is only an inch below average in the United States—but it would be culturally insensitive to impugn his candor outside of its subcultural context, the especially tall baller community. The sentiment struck a chord outside of those circles, too. According to writer Brian Palmer at Slate, who may or may not know Skee-Lo, most of the people he knows would love to be taller:
Most people I know would love to be taller. Parents with slow-growing children often ask pediatricians for growth hormone to save their kids the indignity of being short. I get it. Tall people—particularly tall men—earn more money and are held in higher esteem than their shorter colleagues. Tall people also have higher IQs and a wider selection of mates.
In the last two centuries, the average height of the Dutch population has increased by almost eight inches. While this heart-disease study was making news last week, so were behavioral biologists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, trying to explain why Dutch people have rapidly overtaken Americans as the tallest people on the planet. These researchers found that tall Dutch men are more likely to have children than their shorter counterparts. Either because they are more attractive to women or simply more virile, the tall men are disproportionately breeding. In the United States, this is not so.
Some epidemiologists have argued that the skyrocketing of the Dutch was due to access to dairy and meat products, but Americans have just as much access and have grown instead ever rounder while the Dutch, Norwegians, and Swedes have surpassed us vertically. Instead, lead researcher Gert Stulp explained in Science, human sexual selection seems to be at play. Taller Dutch men produce more offspring than do average and shorter Dutch men, while in the U.S., average-height men and short women are the most productive.
Which may or may not be desirable, depending on your want for children and aversion to wasting seed. The point was that while being tall can suggest evolutionary advantage in some places, it doesn't in others. And reproductive viability does not mean longevity. Compared with the taller northern Europeans, the shorter southern Europeans have lower rates of cardiac death. Swedish and Norwegian people are more than twice as likely as Spanish and Portuguese people (who are, on average, five inches shorter) to die from heart disease. In 2013 researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine published a study of 144,701 women that "confirm[ed] the positive association of height with risk of all cancers." Another large study found increased risk of several cancers in tall men and women, and that taller people have higher rates of mortality from cancers. Palmer calls the fact that tall people die younger "an immutable physical reality."