Height Rankings Revealed: Dutch Men and Latvian Women Tallest in World

Science Daily, July 26, 2016

Dutch men and Latvian women are the tallest on the planet, according to the largest ever study of height around the world.

The research, led by scientists from Imperial College London and using data from most countries in the world, tracked height among young adult men and women between 1914 and 2014.

Among the findings, published in the journal eLife, the research revealed South Korean women and Iranian men have shown the biggest increases in height over the past 100 years. Iranian men have increased by an average of 16.5cm, and South Korean women by 20.2cm.

The height of men and women in the UK has increased by around 11cm over the past century. By comparison, the height of men and women in the USA has increased by 6cm and 5cm, while the height of Chinese men and women has increased by around 11cm and 10cm.

The research also revealed once-tall USA had declined from third tallest men and fourth tallest women in the world in 1914 to 37th and 42nd place respectively in 2014. Overall, the top ten tallest nations in 2014 for men and women were dominated by European countries, and featured no English-speaking nation. UK women improved from 57th to 38th place over a century, while men had improved slightly from 36th to 31st place.

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Furthermore, some countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East have even seen a decline in average height over the past 30 to 40 years.

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Among the findings the team found that:

  • Dutch men are the tallest on the planet, with an average height of 182.5cm. Latvian women are the tallest on the planet, with an average height of 170cm.
  • The top four tallest countries for men are the Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia and Latvia. The top four tallest countries for women are Latvia, the Netherlands, Estonia and the Czech Republic.
  • Men from East Timor were the smallest in the world in 2014, with an average height of 160cm. Women from Guatemala were the smallest in 2014 with an average height of 149cm.
  • The difference between the tallest and shortest countries in the world in 2014 was about 23cm for men–an increase of 4cm on the height gap in 1914. The height difference between the world’s tallest and shortest countries for women has remained the same across the century, at about 20cm.
  • The height difference between men and women has on average remained largely unchanged over 100 years–the average height gap was about 11cmin 1914 and 12cmin 2014.
  • The average height of young men and women has decreased by as much as 5cm in the last 40 years in some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa such as Sierra Leone, Uganda and Rwanda.
  • Australian men in 2014 were the only non-European nationality in the top 25 tallest in the world.
  • In East Asia, South Korean and Chinese men and women are now taller than their Japanese counterparts.
  • Adult height plateaued in South Asian countries like Bangladesh and India at around 5-10 cm shorter than in East Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea.

The smallest adult men in 1914 were found in Laos, where the average male height was 153cm, a similar height to a well-nourished 12-year- old boy living today. In 1914 the smallest women were found in Guatemala, where the average female height was 140cm, a similar height to a well-nourished 10-year- old girl.

The nations with the tallest men in 2014 (1914 ranking in brackets):

1. Netherlands (12)

2. Belgium (33)

3. Estonia (4)

4. Latvia (13)

5. Denmark (9)

6. Bosnia and Herzegovina (19)

7. Croatia (22)

8. Serbia (30)

9. Iceland (6)

10. Czech republic (24)

The nations with the tallest women in 2014 (1914 ranking in brackets):

1. Latvia (28)

2. Netherlands (38)

3. Estonia (16)

4. Czech Republic (69)

5. Serbia (93)

6. Slovakia (26)

7. Denmark (11)

8. Lithuania (41)

9. Belarus (42)

10. Ukraine (43)

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