Average height per country

Andrew Boast

How tall is tall?

For most people their height is a very important attribute as it is often associated with healthier hearts, higher education and increased earnings. It can also have an impact on how attractive you are to the other sex, especially for men as studies show women prefer men who are taller than them. Although women try to make themselves taller through wearing high heels and platforms, their reasons are more focused on appearance rather than enhancing their height.

There are naturally tall people, and as we grow older and live healthier, we are all growing taller with each generation that passes. But in our generation, what height is tall? What height are men and women want to be?

What is the average height for male and females?

Men are naturally taller than women and in the UK, the average male height is 178cm (5’10”) and the average female height is 164cm (5’5”). Although a difference of 14cm, the average height for both have increased in parallel by about 11cm (4 inches).

There are taller nations, and the country with tallest men is the Netherlands (2014) where the average male height is 183cm (6 foot). Latvia boasts the tallest women with an average height of 170cm (5’7”).

The smallest men can be found on an island in South East Asia called Timor and they stand at 160cm (5’3”). The smallest women are in Guatemala (Mexico) and are 150cm (4’11”) tall.

The tallest man in medical history (for whom official measurements have been taken) is Robert Pershing Wadlow (USA) (born 6:30 a.m. at Alton, Illinois, USA on 22 February 1918), who when last measured on 27 June 1940, was found to be 2.72 m (8 ft 11.1 in) tall.

Yao Defen holds the record for being the tallest woman standing at 233cm (7 feet 8 inches) tall or 2.33 meters. She died on November 13, 2012 at the age of 40.

Tallest Average Male Height (2014 by Nation)
Tallest Average Female Height (2014 by Nation)
Czech Republic
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Czech Republic

Source: NCD Risk Factor CollaborationHeight-Chart-Inches-&-Centimeters

Although not yet in the top 10, the Uk are growing fast with 30% of 25 year old men being over 6 feet tall (Official Health of the Nation) and it is estimated that within 2 generations, 6 feet will be the average for men and women will be 5’7”.

Can you be too tall?

The term Gigantism, also known as giantism, has been used frequently to poke fun at tall people, however this is in fact a medical condition which is more often than not fatal. Giantism is a condition that causes the over-production of the growth hormone in childhood which triggers bones to grow in length at the growth plates, and causes subsequent, abnormal growth spurts. People can grow to between 213cm (7 feet) and 275cm (9 feet).

One of the most famous people with giantism was André René Roussimoff, known as André the Giant. He was a French wrestler and actor. You can view Wikipedia’s list of humans with gigantism here.

Another famous, but not well known actor, played the part of one of the most iconic sci-fi films of all time – Alien. In Ridley Scott’s 1979 film called Alien, a young Nigerian actor called Bolaji Badejo played the part of the Alien and stood at 7ft 2in.

So, what is tall?

Knowing what is average is one thing, but what do you class as tall? Is it anything over 180cm (5’11’) for men or 166cm (5’6”) for women?

I think for you to be classed as tall, you have to be able to instantly notice that you are well and truly over the average height. By how much taller? There is no hard and fast rule for this, however I have seen it easier to notice taller people when looking around a group of people when they are a minimum of 3 inches taller than the rest of the crowd. This would make you tall if you are 185cm (6′) for men and 173cm (5’8”) for women.

However, this is changing, as our diets change, as our societies diversify with people moving overseas and to the UK to live. It is estimated that within the next 10 years, what we class as tall now, will be the average height, set only to increase as time goes on. For those who like films, you’ll remember the giant men in Prometheus – generations on from us both in mind and body – perhaps in 10 generations to come, our height will exceed 7 foot!

Can we keep on growing?

That's actually very unlikely. Medical science recognises that the increase in average height we have seen since the middle of the nineteenth century is levelling off. Yuval Noah Harari offers an explanation for this in his book Sapiens: a Brief History of Humankind.
"We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us."
He explains that we were at our peak health (and height) as a species, before the dawn of agriculture. But, when we traded our nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle for the stability of farming grains, we gave up the nutritional diversity that had sustained our evolution thus far. The human race evolved shorter as a result, until the industrial revolution began to make optimal calorific and nutritional diets more accessible in the nineteenth century.

The human race is now catching up to our pre-agriculture ancestors and it is unlikely that our genetic blue print allows for a further significant increase in height.
Tall group showing average height per country
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