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Heights around the world!

August 2016

Are your children and grandchildren taller than you?

Is your family slowly growing taller, generation after generation?

There are changes afoot in people’s height. New research from Imperial College in London indicates that men in Holland and women in Latvia are now the tallest on the planet.

The average height for Dutchmen is now just on 6 feet tall (183 cms) and the average for women in Latvia is 5ft 7 ins (170 cms).

What is really interesting is that when we were kids American men especially were known for their height…often it was put down to a higher meat diet or perhaps all those burgers!!! East enders in London and far east Asians, especially Chinese and Japanese, were thought to be generally a lot less tall.

But things are changing rapidly…and it is mainly thanks to nutrition and environmental factors which are now considered to play a far more important role in determining our final height rather than genetic influences.

Today in nations and groups where there is good health and nutrition for mothers during pregnancy and also where there are good standards of health and nutrition for children as they grow up, overall the nations’ average heights are increasing.

The new report shows that men in Iran and women in South Korea have had the biggest growth spurts in recent years, increasing their average height by 6 inches (16 cms) in Iran and 8 inches (20 cms) in South Korea.  Chinese men have generally risen by around 4 inches (11 cms) and just a little less for Chinese women.

Here in the UK, our average height for men and women has increased by over 4 inches (11 cms) in the last century.  An average man in the UK is now 5ft 10 ins (178 cms) and a woman is 5 ft 5 ins (164 cms) tall.

In the latest statistics available (2014) reports shows the countries with the tallest men compared with figures from 100 years ago. These are:

  1. Holland (was 12th in rankings in 1914)
  2. Belgium (33rd in 1914)
  3. Estonie (4th in 1914)
  4. Latvia (13th in 1914)
  5. Denmark (9th in 1914)
  6. Bosnia and Herzegovina (19th in 1914)
  7. Croatia (22nd in 1914)
  8. Serbia (30th in 1914)
  9. Iceland (6th in 1914)
  10. Czech Republic (24th in 1914).


However,  the list of countries with the tallest women is slightly different:

  1. Latvia (was 28th in 1914)
  2. Netherlands (38th in 1914)
  3. Estonia (16th in 1914)
  4. Czech Republic (69th in 1914)
  5. Serbia (93rd in 1914)
  6. Slovakia (26th in 1914)
  7. Denmark (11th in 1914)
  8. Lithuania (41 in 1914)
  9. Belarus (42nd in 1914)
  10. Ukraine (43rd in 1914).

Americans are no longer outstandingly tall. In 1914 they had the third tallest men and the fourth tallest women on earth but this has now dropped right back to 37th and 42nd place, not because Americans are becoming shorter but mainly because other nations are now overtaking them.

Today the growth in height in America, Britain and some other countries appears now to have reached a plateau; while the report shows that people in Spain, Italy and in many countries in South America and East Asia are still gaining height at a steady level.

Against this, there are some countries in certain areas including sub-Saharan Africa, north Africa and the middle east where heights have been declining over the last thirty years.

At the other end of the scale, men from East Timor are currently the shortest in the world, averaging just  5 ft 3 ins (160 cms); while the lowest average height for women is found in Guatemala at just 4 ft 11 ins (149 cms).

Women in the Philippines, Bangladesh and Nepal have a lot of growing to do from their current average of a tad under 5 foot (151 cms).

Another aspect of this height is longevity as some reports suggest that taller people tend to live longer and have a reduced risk of heart disease...although extra height can also being some health risks including possibly an increased risk of developing ovarian and prostate cancers.

The full details of the report are available here.


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