Dutch men and Latvian women are the tallest on the planet, a new study has discovered.
Men and women from Sweden were the giants of the planet when records began back in 1914 – but now they have since been knocked off the top spot.
Standing on average at just under 6ft, men from the Netherlands are almost four inches taller than the Swedes were 100 years ago.
While Latvian women now also stand nearly four inches taller than their Swedish counterparts did.
But men from East Timor are the smallest on the planet now at just 5’2? on average, despite having grew more than two inches in the past 100 years.
And the most petite women in the world live in Guatemala – who are just 4’10” – according to the new study.
Research revealed the US declined from third tallest men and fourth tallest women in the world in 1914 to 37th and 42nd place respectively 100 years later – despite an increase of five inches. The height of men and women in the UK has increased by around 11cm (more than four inches) over the past century. Spanish men have increased by 13.3cm (five inches) while the women are now 12.3cm (just under five inches) taller. While South Korean women have shown the biggest increases in height over the past 100 years
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 (six and a half inches), and South Korean women by 20.2cm (just under eight inches).
The height of men and women in the UK has increased by around 11cm (more than four inches) over the past century.
In comparison, the height of men and women in the US has increased by 6cm (two inches) and 5cm (just under two inches).
While the height of Chinese men and women has increased by around 11cm (more than four inches) and 10cm (four inches).
The research also revealed the once-tall US has 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.
Key findings of the report were:
• Dutch men are the tallest on the planet, with an average height of 182.5cm (5’11”). Latvian women are the tallest on the planet, with an average height of 170cm (5’6?).
• 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 (5’2?). Women from Guatemala were the smallest in 2014 with an average height of 149cm (4’10”).
• The difference between the tallest and shortest countries in the world in 2014 was about 23cm (nine inches) 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 (just under eight inches).
• The height difference between men and women has on average remained largely unchanged over 100 years – the average height gap was about 11cm in 1914 and 12cm in 2014 – over four inches.
• The average height of young men and women has decreased by as much as two inches 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 (two to four inches) 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 (5ft), 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 (4’7?), a similar height to a well-nourished 10-year-old girl.
The researchers also found some countries have stopped growing over the past 30 to 40 years, despite showing initial increases in the beginning of the century.
The US was one of the first high-income countries to plateau, and other countries that have seen similar patterns include the UK, Finland, and Japan.
In contrast, Spain and Italy and many countries in Latin America and East Asia are still increasing in height.
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.
How tall we grow is strongly influenced by nutrition and environmental factors, although an individual’s genetic factors may also play a role.
The average height of young men and women has decreased by as much as two inches in the last 40 years in some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa such as Rwanda and Uganda. But Egyptian women have grew 8.6cm while the men have increased by 8.1cm (more than three inches) since 1914
Japanese men have increased by 14.6cm (five and a half inches) over the past 100 years and women have grew taller by 16cm (six inches). Chinese men and women are now 10.8cm and 9.5cm taller respectively. And men from India have only grew by 2.9cm (one inch) in 100 years while the height of Indian women increased by 4.6cm (nearly two inches). Australian men in 2014 were the only non-European nationality in the top 25 tallest in the world, with men growing by 10.3cm and women 10.4cm (both four inches) since 1914
The researchers also found some countries have stopped growing over the past 30 to 40 years, despite showing initial increases in the beginning of the century. The US was one of the first high-income countries to plateau, and other countries that have seen similar patterns include the UK, Finland, and Japan. In contrast, Spain and Italy and many countries in Latin America and East Asia are still increasing in height
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.
It 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 may carry some health risks, as studies have linked height to a greater risk of certain cancers including ovarian and prostate.
Professor Majid Ezzati from the School of Public Health at Imperial who led the research said: ‘This study gives us a picture of the health of nations over the past century, and reveals the average height of some nations may even be shrinking while others continue to grow taller.
‘This confirms we urgently need to address children and adolescents’ environment and nutrition on a global scale, and ensure we’re giving the world’s children the best possible start in life.’
He added: ‘Our study also shows the English-speaking world, especially the US, is falling behind other high-income nations in Europe and Asia Pacific.
‘Together with the poor performance of these countries in terms of obesity, this emphasises the need for more effective policies towards healthy nutrition throughout life.’
Mary De Silva, Head of Population, Environment and Health at the Wellcome Trust, who co-funded the study, said: ‘This is a unique analysis that shows the real power of combining a hundred years of population data sources that span the globe.
‘The most striking finding is despite the huge increases in height seen in some countries, there is still a considerable gap between the shortest and tallest countries.
‘More research is needed to understand the reasons for this gap and to help devise ways of reducing the disparities in health that still persist globally.’
The research team, which included almost 800 scientists and was in collaboration with the World Health Organization, used data from a wide range of sources, including military conscription data, health and nutrition population surveys, and epidemiological studies.
They used these to generate height information for 18-year-old’s in 1914 who were born in 1896 – through to 18-year-old’s in 2014 who were born in 1996.
Map of men’s height changes since 1914: Sweden topped the table for height in men at 171.9cm back in 1914, while Norway were second with 171.2cm and US third at 171.1cm (all 5’7?). But, Laos recorded the lowest at 152.9cm, men from East Timor were on average 153cm and those from Guatemala were 153.9cm (all 5ft). But now men from Netherlands are the tallest at 182.5cm, while men from Belgium 181.7cm and Estonia 181.6cm are second and third respectively (all 5’11”). But now men from East Timor are the smallest on the planet standing at 159.8cm. Men from Yemen are now 159.9cm tall (both 5’2?) and those from Laos are on average 160.5cm tall (5’3?)
Map of women’s height changes since 1914: Sweden also topped the table for height in women at 160.3cm (5’3?), while Norway were second at 159.2cm. Iceland recorded the third tallest women in the world with 158.6cm (both 5’2?) while Guatemala recorded the lowest height at 140.3cm. Women from El Salvador were on average 141.2cm tall and those from Peru were 141.5cm tall (all 4’7?). But now women from Latvia are the tallest at 169.8cm, while those from the Netherlands and Estonia are the next tallest at 168.7cm (all 5’6?). Guatemalan women are still the smallest women in the world at 149.4cm while women from the Phillipines are the second smallest at 149.6cm (both 4’10”). Women from Bangladesh stand at just 150.8cm (4’11”)