Do centimetres matter? Self-reported versus estimated height measurements in parents


P-E Mullis, M.D., Paediatric Endocrinology, Diabetology & Metabolism, University Children’s Hospital, Inselspital, CH-3010 Bern, Switzerland.
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Aim:  An impressive discrepancy between reported and measured parental height is often observed. The aims of this study were: (a) to assess whether there is a significant difference between the reported and measured parental height; (b) to focus on the reported and, thereafter, measured height of the partner; (c) to analyse its impact on the calculated target height range.

Methods/Results:  A total of 1542 individual parents were enrolled. The parents were subdivided into three groups: normal height (3–97th Centile), short (<3%) and tall (>97%) stature. Overall, compared with men, women were far better in estimating their own height (p < 0.001). Where both partners were of normal, short or tall stature, the estimated heights of their partner were quite accurate. Women of normal stature underestimated the short partner and overestimated the tall partner, whereas male partners of normal stature overestimated both their short as well as tall partners. Women of tall stature estimated the heights of their short partners correctly, whereas heights of normal statured men were underestimated. On the other hand, tall men overestimated the heights of their female partners who are of normal and short stature. Furthermore, women of short stature estimated the partners of normal stature adequately, and the heights of their tall partners were overestimated. Interestingly, the short men significantly underestimated the normal, but overestimated tall female partners.

Conclusion:  Only measured heights should be used to perform accurate evaluations of height, particularly when diagnostic tests or treatment interventions are contemplated. For clinical trails, we suggest that only quality measured parental heights are acceptable, as the errors incurred in estimates may enhance/conceal true treatment effects.