It’s no secret that Asians are getting taller worldwide. There’s a commonly held notion that massive leaps in economic prosperity in recent decades have led to equally massive improvements in nutrition and, as a result, height.
Looking around at our family members of older generations, many of whom grew up in abject poverty, it’s a fairly apparent observation.
If you’re anything like me, though, you like seeing the raw data to back up your hunches — but you also probably don’t want to spend hours trawling through dense academic reports to find them.
Thankfully for us, redditor kisukisue has done just that so we don’t have to.
Citing a list of 24 sources comprised mostly of peer-reviewed journal articles and government reports, kisukisue created a moving infographic displaying the progression of average Asian male height in 12 major cities across the continent from 1920 to 2000.
According to the animation, the average height of someone in Beijing (China) born in 1920 was 167.5 cm (5’6″) — the tallest of the cities included. Not far behind was Tehran (Iran) and Istanbul (Turkey), who would spend the next decade swapping honors for second and third.
By 1940, however, Istanbul would secure the top spot, holding onto it for more than a decade before Beijing snatched it back in 1953.
Meanwhile, Tokyo (Japan), who was second-last in 1920, made steady gains throughout the 40’s before coming out of nowhere to top the list in 1957 — a timeline that coincides generally with Japan’s burst of economic growth following the Second World War.
They would remain the tallest until the 70’s, when Seoul (South Korea), Beijing and the two West Asian giants would surge to the forefront. After reclaiming their title in 1973, Istanbul would hold on to it for nearly 3 decades, all the way up until 2000 (the 19-year-olds of today), when Beijing would pull up alongside them for joint-first. Now, the average 19-year-old in Beijing is 175.6 cm (5’9″) — a total gain of 3 inches in 80 years.
Will Beijing continue to lead the way going into the next decade? Or will other nascent powerhouses hit their growth spurts? Will the general trend of height increase continue, or will it stagnate? Only time will tell.
Kudos again to reddit user kisukisue for the fantastic effort in making this graphic.