What Makes a Population Tall?
There are many factors such as genetics and the environment you grow up in that can determine the height of a person in a particular country. While DNA represents around 80% in determining a persons height, what is particularly interesting is how proper nutrition plays a role in a country's average height and how average height can be used to measure the health of a countries population.
This raises a lot of questions, for instance, why have people in eastern Europe grown an eye-opening 12cm in the last 100 years? Is it because of their diet improving over this time? Why does the Netherlands now have the tallest women in the world? Is it simply because of genetics? Is it because these countries are more developed and richer now? If wealth were a factor, then why are people in the United States on average not growing taller anymore, as the study shows? Why are the tallest countries all in Europe? These are questions well worth looking into further.
Are People in the United States Getting Shorter?
The answer to that question seems to be "yes" and that may come as a shock to some Americans because it didn't use to be that way. Americans are accustomed to being considered among the tallest in the world, mainly because up until recently they were. At the start of the American revolution, in 1765, American men were on average 7.6 cm (3 inches) taller than the English and they maintained the title of "tallest people" well into the 19th and 20th centuries. Americans were taller than anyone, especially Europeans.
Not anymore. Americans have lost a lot of ground when it comes to growth when compared to people in Europe. Where once they were 7.62 centimetres taller (3 inches) the American people on average are now 7 centimetres shorter
than their European counterparts. The question is why?
The Link between Health and Height
It has been scientifically proven that the more healthy a population is, the taller people grow. Americans were taller simply because they have always lived in a land of abundance and ate better than people in other lands and were therefore healthier. That also helped people in The United States grow to be a big and tall people. So what would cause a rich, modern country with all the advantages that go along with that to stop growing in height? Well the answer to that it seems, is the American diet. Diet is important in expecting mothers as what foods a mother eats when she is pregnant is a factor in how healthy the foetus is and ultimately, how healthy and tall the child is.
Research has shown that immigrant families coming from poorer countries and moving to richer countries with improved socioeconomic conditions such as better nutrition, show an increase in height in the next generation. That increase in overall height would likely not have developed if they had stayed in their original country where the socioeconomic conditions were worse. Studies on height show that changes in height within a countries borders is mostly determined by genetic factors whereas changes in height compared between countries is often used as a comparative measure by scientists and researchers as a way to measure the comparative health and well being of populations.
Historical Height Data in The United States
Writing in progress...(apologies).
Height Over Time
Studies based on tracking skeletons going back over two thousand years have shown that humans have maintained a height of around 170 cm (5 feet, 5 inches) over this period, and we only began becoming taller than 170 cm when we reached the modern age that we are living in today.
Writing in progress...(apologies).
Top 5 Special Reports Sources:
- PBS Newshour. (2016): Column: “ What Americans’ declining height has to say about the economy "
- Medline Plus. (2021). “ Is height determined by genetics?"
- Our World in Data. (2021). Human Height