The physical stature and appearance of men and women can make a difference to their opportunities in education, jobs and their income a new study suggests.
In an article published in the BMJ journal today, author Professor Timothy Frayling says their research provides the strongest evidence to date that short men or overweight women are at a socioeconomic disadvantage compared to taller, skinnier counterparts.
The UK and US researchers say while in developed countries being taller and thinner are associated with a higher socioeconomic status, it is not well known why.
Genetic variants known to influence height and Body Mass Index (BMI) from 119,000 people aged between 40 and 70 were studied and analysed.
The data from the UK Biobank -- a database of biological information of 500,000 British adults -- was chosen using a technique called mendelian randomisation.
Five measures of socioeconomic status were used: age when completing full-time education, degree level education, job class, annual household income and Townsend deprivation index -- a recognised social deprivation score.
The analyses were repeated separately for men and women.
It found shorter height leads to lower levels of education and job status, lower income -- particularly in men -- and higher BMI leads to lower income and greater deprivation in women.
"These data support evidence that height and BMI play an important partial role in determining several aspects of a person's socioeconomic status, especially women's BMI for income and deprivation and men's height for education, income, and job class," the study says.
Prof Frayling, of Exeter University, says a range of factors could link taller people to higher social position, though this particular study didn't look into why.
However, it could include "complex interactions" between self-esteem, stigma, positive discrimination and increased intelligence.