We tall people are well aware that being tall has a humongous impact on our lives. So you would think that this would be well recorded in the vast expanses of academic literature. But the fact is it isn’t. Julie Booth, an assistant professor in occupational therapy at Coventry University, is working to change this–she is doing an entire PhD devoted to understanding how being very tall impacts the lives of young British citizens… She just published her first paper on the topic in the reputable Journal of Occupational Science. The title is “Height matters: The experiences of very tall young British adults in relation to managing everyday occupations“. I read a copy she sent me (it’s not open access). Below are some questions I had for her, along with her answers she kindly took the time to write.
Q1. So sorry, but have to ask, how tall are you?
Q2. In a nutshell, can you explain to us what occupational science is and how it could apply to tall people specifically?
Occupational science is a body of knowledge that views the human as an occupational being, who has an innate drive to engage in daily occupations as explained by Yerxa et al (1990). Occupational science therefore focuses on every day occupations (every day activities) and includes aspects such as how occupations are formulated, why people choose the occupations they engage in, how they engage in them and what meaning they have to the person. Within Occupational Science consideration is given to the relationship between occupation, health and well being. With this in mind, it is interesting to research how people with diversity of height, through tall stature, manage their everyday occupations. Occupations involve objects and processes, and are influenced by the environment. It is interesting to discover how very tall people manage occupations involving objects and the environment (which may or may not have a good fit). It is also of benefit to consider what occupations have purpose and meaning for very tall people, alongside factors that influence occupational choice.
Q3. How are you funded and do you see much future funding for this topic?
Coventry University is funding the PhD research. Qualitative research into this area is very limited. I am keen to investigate the potential for any future funding opportunities.
Q4. Do you have any suggestions for researchers in other fields that want to make a contribution to the literature relating to tall stature?
The project is due to complete in 2020 and I will be able to provide recommendations at this time.
Q5. In short, what was the question and then answer of your study?
The overall research project question is “What are the experiences of UK very tall young adults in relation to managing everyday life and well-being?”
There are two studies that formulate the research project. I am presently undertaking study two and will be able to provide overall findings of the project once it is complete in 2020. Some of the findings from study one have been published in a peer reviewed journal and can be accessed through the Journal of Occupational Science:
Height matters: The experiences of very tall young British adults in relation to managing everyday occupations
Q6. I had never heard of the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010, that could really help us. What characteristics does it already protect?
The following characteristics are protected characteristics within the Equality Act 2010
marriage and civil partnership;
pregnancy and maternity;
religion or belief;
Q7. I really like your idea of studying those of us tall people who have become injured. I mean, it’s one thing to be tall and have to awkwardly sit on a low toilet seat. But then to do this with an injured hip, for instance, is really problematic. Is this what you plan to study next?
Yes, this is one of the future areas of interest that I would like to research.
Q8. What about after your PhD? What percentage of your research could you see being devoted to tall stature, if any?
I would like to suggest 50% of my post-doctoral research being focused on tall stature.
Many thanks to Julie Booth for her contributions to the literature on tall stature and her time taken for this interview. It is exactly contribution’s like hers from experts in various fields that could incite change that will make the lives of extremely tall people easier. Here is hoping that others see her contribution and are inspired to make their own!
If you have any questions for Julie, please comment below and I will make sure she sees them.
Thanks for this – really interesting stuff.
It’s very good to hear about this. I think there is an issue about equalities. An example that has annoyed me for years is seat pitch in aeroplanes, where people with very long legs are forced to pay substantial premium prices for extra seat pitch, when this is a necessity, not a luxury for us. As I get older (I am a 6ft 1 female) things like low toilet seats, low seats in theatres etc. as well as legroom become more of a problem. I’m sure there are many more examples. Designers should be obliged to take account of everyone, not just the “average”.
I completely agree. I am 6’8″ and I cannot seat in any “Extra Legroom” seat as they are are either too small or they are occupied by short persons. Don’t wish to sound too negative but apparently everything is becoming smaller, shorter and more tiny in order for more people to fit (e.g. restaurants, cars, cinema seats etc.)
Wonderful to hear that someone is studying what being tall is all about. I am 7ft tall and during pubity and late teens I was part of a study in South Africa under Professor Griffiths at the Johannesburg General hospital.
I could write a book about my life and the issues with being tall, how it affected my life in positive and negative ways. Happy to help out if anyone wants to listen.
I’d wager that height related challenges increase exponentially with height. And given the challenges I’ve faced at a mere 6’7″, I’d imagine you have found yourself in some extraordinary predicaments.
If you were to write something up, I would be pleased to post it here on Tall.Life.
Yes, we want to listen!!!
I am so happy to see this issue finally being researched. I am 6’2″ (female). My son is about 6’11”. This seems to be a familial trait. Everyone in my family is tall, but some are excessively tall. I am so interested and would be more than happy to participate in your research. This research is a long time in coming. Thank you!
We’re well aware of the impact of being tall on transportation, clothes, lifestyles, etc. I’m 6’9″ and have found it interesting to observe how my height effects the ‘almost as tall’ person who is used to being the tallest person in the room until I came along and spoiled their fun.
A new aspect to that is that I now regularly encounter at the gym a famous sports figure who is slightly taller, and the mechanisms he uses relating to someone like me, who has no interest in sports. He uses subtle ways that I interpret as telling me that though I might be tall, I’m still nobody to him. I find it very interesting.
Thank you everyone for the comments. Really really helpful. Once my doctorate is complete I will share the overall outcomes of the whole project. This will be in 2020. Julie Booth
Whaoh, i’m so happy to have read and found you all.
Julie, I recently launched the T-Factor Podcast (T for Tall and out of the norm) and would love to discuss your current findings, even if they’re not scientifically proven yet. You can come back on the podcast in 2020 for the details:-) How can I email you and send you a description?? http://www.t-factor.online. MarieLine.
My 6’6″ GF and I just moved out here to the Big Island thinking we’d fit right in. Turns out, just about everyone is small out here. And don’t even get me started on the parking spaces…
I am a 6’5″ Tall Woman. We need someone to help us get the airlines to automatically give us the bulkheads or emergency rows when flying. It kills me when I cannot fit in a seat and am in pain and see a short person in the bulkhead. Ridiculous! If you would like to interview me please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, that’s what i keep saying. There needs to be the Tall advocacy, just as the Plus size or people with curves have done for so many years. It’s time. Please follow http://www.t-factor.online
With my podcast and through all the stories that my guests and I share, I try to show how important Support System is while growing up, how finding your tribe is essential to thrive and how advocacy (talking about our difference) changes lives.
Great website Tall.Life
I’m so glad I found you.
This end of the height Bell curve can be very lonely. I am curious about your current research and would like to view what adaptive mechanisms, old and new, apply to a group of ‘vertically gifted’ adults, to keep us from being so ‘vertically challenged’ in travel, clothing, entertainment, medicine and social situations. Sincerely, Carolyn C. Livingston R.N.(ret).
Great project, but it would also be interesting to see what experiences older tall people face in their life. I am turning 40 this year and compared to the times 20 years ago many things get more difficult, especially with health issues. I am 204 cm tall or 6’8”. In the past many mis-fits like too small or low seats were just nasty, but with degenerative joint problems and spinal diseases more and more things get painful and difficult. Another point is the psychological impact of premature health problems. It took me some time to accept that (at least in my case) past the mid 30s age related stuff starts to get worse while all the shorties stay fit and in good shape. Finally many tall people have to deal with a mis-fit in terms of time: Life expectancy goes down as height goes up. The consequence is that many of us have to quit work before the regular pension age. This has financial implications for the final years of life.
Great Dane, you are aptly named. It’s so odd how aware society is that big dogs don’t live as long but we turn a blind eye to the shortened life spans of taller people.
I’m in a very similar situation: nearly 40 and 6’7″. I agree with everything you are saying. It’s just something we have to come to terms with and adapt accordingly. It sure would be helpful though if we were educated about it at a younger age, and if society made compensations for us. For instance, perhaps I wouldn’t have played volleyball so intensely had I known the risks. And as you inferred, our pension age should be earlier.
We just have to adapt as best we can.
Thanks, it’s so nice to be not alone with that… Do you know anything about the impact of fast growth on life expectancy? I have read several articles which mention a negative correlation between rapid growth and lifespan which means that life is further shortened if you are very tall and have had a rapid growth. As I grew past 1,90m at the age of 13 I am wondering how strong the impact may be.
From what little I understand about the evolutionary process, any deviation from average within a species coincides with a lesser opportunity for optimization. From that it would follow that a rapid growth might have consequences. Same with if someone finds themselves to be unexpectedly tall when their lineage is not. I’ve got a short chapter in my book, Tall Life, talking a bit about height and evolution that might interest you. The rest of the book is more practical and about solving some of the challenges we face. If you are more interested in the science surrounding the ramifications of tall stature, you might be interested in the work of Thomas Samaras.
My great grandfather lived to 97. He was much shorter than me, but I can still try to heed his advice: moderation in all things.
A reduction of pension age following height would be fantastic but also complicated… I am sure that hundreds of other factors would be possible to take into account if you would start to make pension age sensitive to estimated individual life expectancies… At our height what would you think life expectancy actually is on average? I have found several studies that in my opinion indicate average lifespan of people of our size somewhere around 65 years. What are your thoughts on the matter?
Samaras has tried to put some numbers to this. Here’s a sample of his work.
I appreciate his caveat, which is that height is only around 5 to 12% of the longevity picture.
Many studies show shorter height is related to greater longevity, even among tall people such as basketball players. Two separate studies by Lemez and Martinez found shorter retired basketball players lived longer.
Of course, tall people still reach advanced ages, such as economist John Kenneth Galbraith, 6’9″ who lived to 98.