South Korean women had the greatest increase in height in the past century, a recent study reported. On average, they grew 8 inches taller, a surge higher than any other population on the planet.
The study, published in e Life, looked at the heights of more than 18.6 million individuals in 200 countries. Utilizing previous population-based studies, researchers gathered such personal data from people born between 1896 and 1996.
What they found was that South Korean women grew nearly 8 inches or 20.2 centimeters. Iranian men followed with a height increase of 6.5 inches or 16.5 centimeters.
The tallest group of people were men from the Netherlands, whose average heights is about six feet tall or 182.5 centimeters. The shortest, at four feet six inches or 140.3 centimeters, were women from Guatemala.
“People from different countries grow to different heights. This may be partly due to genetics, but most differences in height between countries have other causes,” the study said.
Men and women from the United States had the smallest increase among high-income countries. They ranked 42nd and 37th respectively, the Washington Post cited.
Americans were among the tallest before World War II. According to the New York Post, the apparent decline may be caused by a diet based on convenience rather than nutrition.
Minimal growth in heights among groups of people were also found in South Asia and parts of Africa. While the study found groups of people who saw an average increase in height over the years, some countries had quite the opposite. Certain groups of people were found to be shorter than they were 50 years back.
University of Sussex’s Alexander Moradi commented on the study:
“I think one thing that one should keep in mind in these studies is that height is a useful indicator of how nutrition and health is developing and that these are closely related to the overall economic development [of a country].”
Researchers say more work needs to be done to figure the underlying causes behind these statistics. They wrote:
“There is a need to better understand why height has changed in different countries by different amounts, and use this information to improve nutrition and health across the world. It would also be valuable to understand how much becoming taller has been responsible for improved health and longevity throughout the world.”