NEW YORK – According to the largest ever study of height around the world, Dutch men and Latvian women are the planet’s tallest people while Iranian men and South Korean women have grown the fastest in the last century.
The research, led by scientists from Imperial College London, used data from almost all countries in the world to track height among young adult men and women between 1914 and 2014.
The research revealed South Korean women and Iranian men had shown the biggest increases in height over the past 100 years. Iranian men have increased by an average of 16.5 cm, and South Korean women by 20.2 cm.
The height of men and women in the UK has increased by around 11 cm over the past century. By comparison, the height of men and women in the USA has increased by 6 cm and 5 cm, respectively, while the height of Chinese men and women has increased by around 11 cm and 10 cm.
The United States was one of the first wealthy countries to plateau in terms of height, according to study. It was followed by others, including Britain, Finland, and Japan. Meanwhile, people in Spain and Italy and many countries in Latin America and East Asia are still gaining in height.
The research also revealed that the 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.
Nutrition and environmental factors play a key role in our growth, although an individual’s genetic factors may also play a role. Children and adolescents who are better nourished and live in better environments tend to be taller, and height may even be influenced by a mother’s health and nutrition during pregnancy. Height has lifelong consequences for health and even education and earnings.
Some research suggests people who are taller tend to live longer, gain a better education and even earn more. However, being tall also carries some health risks, as studies have linked height to a greater risk of certain cancers including ovarian and prostate cancers.