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FutureStarrAverage height for a womanor
While average height of men around the world increased by 5%, the percentage change in the height of Iranian men was double that at 10%. By contrast, Marshallese men grew by less than 0.5%. South Korean women saw the largest relative increase – 15% – while the height of Tuvalese women increased by less than 1%.The global mean height of adult men born in 1996 is 171 centimetres (cm), or 5 foot and 7.5 inches. There are large variations in average height between nations: the shortest being men in Timor at 160 cm, and the tallest from the Netherlands at 182 cm.
Despite a relatively consistent ratio at the global level, some countries have seen significant changes. A century ago, South Korean males were on average 18 cm taller than their female counterparts; this difference has fallen to 13 cm, meaning that South Korean women have seen larger absolute gains in height than South Korean men. By contrast, in the Philippines this difference has doubled from 7 cm to 14 cm, meaning that average height of Filipino men has increased faster than that of Filipino women.
This seems like an unexpected result. Human height is positively correlated with standards of living; living standards have been increasing across the world in recent decades, so why would average human heights be stagnating or even falling? This trend is particularly curious for Sub-Saharan Africa, where average height appears to be falling the most while the region has simultaneously achieved progress across many aspects of wellbeing. (Source: ourworldindata.org)
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the pattern is even more puzzling. Remarkably, the average male and female heights of the region have been falling since 1970, despite improvements in health and nutrition. Some researchers argue that this is due to selection: the least healthy children – whose growth is stunted due to malnutrition – do not survive to adulthood, while the survivors are healthier and taller. When child mortality rates decrease, stunted children survive to adulthood, thus lowering the average adult height.
Improvements in environmental factors such as nutrition and health could result in further increases in average heights. However, the factors that influence height have an upper limit: nutrient intake, for example, likely has limits above which benefits stop. As such, it’s possible that heights – particularly in countries where living standards are still relatively low – can further increase. But for the richest and tallest countries in the world today, heights may have reached their limit. (Source: ourworldindata.org)