Short people "got no reason to live" sang Randy Newman once.

Now research suggests being ­vertically challenged really can impair a person's quality of life. Scientists used virtual reality technology to reduce the height of volunteers travelling on a computer-simulated tube train by 10 inches (25cm).

The experience of being shorter increased reports of negative feelings, such as being incompetent, dislikeable or inferior. It also heightened levels of mistrust, fear and paranoia. Height-reduced participants were more likely to think someone else in the virtual train carriage was deliberately staring, thinking badly about them, or trying to cause distress. The researchers believe the findings demonstrate the psychologically detrimental effect of experiencing social situations from a position closer to the ground.

Loading article content

Professor Daniel Freeman, who led the Medical Research Council-funded study, said: "Height is taken to convey authority, and we feel taller when we feel more powerful. It is little wonder, then, that men and women tend to over-report their height."