The Woman of Tomorrow: Shorter, Plumper, & More Fertile

By Brett Israel | October 20, 2009 3:28 pm

crystal-ballLook into the future and see the women of tomorrow! A new study predicts that future women will be a tad shorter, heavier, and more fertile—that is, if the women who are currently most successful at producing children are any indication. The team studied 2238 women who had passed menopause and so completed their reproductive lives…[and] tested whether a woman’s height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol or other traits correlated with the number of children she had borne. They controlled for changes due to social and cultural factors to calculate how strongly natural selection is shaping these traits [New Scientist].

Their results show that shorter, heavier women tend to have more children, as do women with lower blood pressure and cholesterol. If the mothers pass on these traits for 10 generations, the average woman in 2409 will be 2 centimetres shorter and 1 kilogram [about 2 pounds] heavier than she is today. She will bear her first child about 5 months earlier and enter menopause 10 months later [New Scientist]. A two-centimeter decrease over 400 years may be a modest change, but the researchers say it’s evolution in action. The study will be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The finding jibes with previous research showing that shorter women are more likely to have long-term relationships with men, and are also more likely to have children (however, that study was based on British people that are now over 50 years old, so it’s not clear if this trend extends to younger generations, or other cultures). Researchers really have no idea why men seem to be drawn to shorter women, but Daniel Nettle, who led the research that shows men prefer shorter mates, has an idea. “We know that men are drawn to things that in our evolutionary past would have been a cue for fertility. And in one sense tallness is a negative cuetall women reach puberty later and probably their secondary sexual characteristics develop somewhat later,” he says [New Scientist]. However, he stresses that scientists do not have a firm grasp on the genetics of height, so the real answer is undoubtedly more complex.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: They Don’t Make Homo Sapiens Like They Used To
80beats: Are Birth Control Pills Changing the Mating Game?
80beats: Like a Wool Sweater, Scottish Sheep Shrink As Climate Heats Up
80beats: Hunting Big Game Speeds Evolution of Shrinking Species

Image: flickr / garyknight

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Wesley

    Does it take into account the extra weight women gain having children? Women on average hold on to 3 – 4 pounds for every child they have. Finding heavier women in menopause have had more children could be an effect rather than a cause. The weight doesn’t have to come from pregnancy either, people gain weight just being married or in long term relationships, like the kind that produce children. In that case too the weight is not the cause of the children, but the children and the weight are caused by the relationship.

    If all the variables are not thought of and taken into account, the study is pointless. The height factor is interesting though, but not necessarily correlated with male preference. I like them short and tall as long as they’re pretty. It could be taller women are more likely to be professionally minded and less likey to settle down with kids.

    Correlational studies are interesting, but people tend to jump to conclusions and make mistakes. I like the studies that demonstrate a causal relationship better

  • liu

    I think there are many leapholes in this study .How can we get the trend of evlution from a nowaday status?

  • Drivel

    You have to wonder why we are even wasting money on studying something like this. What is average now and so what impact does 2 cm make in 400 years? All meaningless drivel.

    Where is the study on men?

  • Ingela

    Wouldn´t the height of the fathers impact that of their daughters. Usually tall men are considered more attractive. Unless there is a preference for short persons of both opposite sexes there would be no net trend towards shortness.

  • Fo shizzle my____

    I drive thru the west side of Chicago every day, um, I mean “West SiEEd!!” when kids are walking to school. They are like adolecent diabetic weeble wobbles. The study is flawed because these rollie pollies breed at 15, but won’t get a stroke til they reach 50. I don’t know tall from short, but if bad judgement is hereditary it explains why “West SiEEd!” is such a joy to drive by!

  • VJ

    Seems like we’ve gone from concern about overpopulation in 1970 (world pop. 3.6 billion) to pretending it doesn’t exist (world pop. 7 billion). Don’t go blaming other countries or some other race besides you own. Women are squeezing out babies everywhere. If the breeders I see are any indication, the women of tomorrow will be some pudgy, some athletic mommies, including the white middle class, ignorant and unconscious of overpopulation while complaining about “growth”, traffic, congestion, prices, housing shortages, crime, water shortage, crowded cities, pollution, food scarcity, rudeness, urban sprawl and loss of farmland, while squeezing out more babies and adding to the problem.

  • Fo shizzle my____

    VaJ, we have to be able to talk about race when talking about population growth, if only to illustrate cultural drives to have children. In Asia more mouths mean more hands in farms and industry. In many under developed Lati American catholic countries, birth control is a sin. In Africa, birth control is often inaccessable.

    In wealthier parts of the U.S., native born populations are growing far more slowly than immigrant populations moving in. In 50 years latin immigration/growth in the U.S. will equal the combined growth of white, black and asian populations.

    In America’s inner cities there is a cultural acceptance of young single parenthood. That is not a racist statement. The babies of babies are born to a world with far more hardships and far less opportunity than babies born to women who wait until their late twenties and early thirties to have children.

  • Angie

    Isn´t this yet another study, which suggests, that the appearance of women is so extremely vital? At the same time the media complain about anorectic women and girls and also ladies and even little girls, who suffer from bulimia. Is it true, that most women are into tall guys only because of their height? I would consider that equally superficial.

  • Luci

    We all know that asexual infertile men will reply as naysayers who would rather world destruction than life production.


    Any good ones lately?

    *Sexually active men are less intelligent than women
    *Tall people are smarter
    *Short women are dumber and want babies
    * Tall people are greedy
    *Short people are uneducated and poor

    Short girl here:
    158 IQ
    Athletic as a child and adult
    Nutrition friendly
    Well educated
    Good dancer
    Loves reading ,writing, studying., history , poetry and science
    1 percentile educated
    Healthy with no health problems
    How about it’s random… Go to other countries where shorter people succeed more and countries where taller people do.

    Short women:
    Hourglass shaped more often
    They have small beautiful feet
    Great athleticism compared to tall women(running is an excpetion to tall people).
    Great Dancers(longer longer legs do not make thm bette for some reason)
    Bodies for fighting
    Stronger mentality than perceived(doesn’t fear as easily)
    Intelligent and self satisfied
    These are common traits I have known short women to have.

    It’s like everybody is the same. Only fat short women are fertile, but yes, females collect more fat than men for protection and feeding of the baby( in case of starvation). Maybe?

    Men are built to be skinnier and have lss body fat because they build more muscle.
    Women should be curvy or moderately curvy unless the organic body type is preferrable and healthy.

    I had friends of varying heights who were drug addicts, unhealthy or infertile and fertile, many were tall who were obese and used drugs while my shorter friends weren’t unhealthy and vise versa.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar