In the past century, women in South Korea have gained a whopping 8 inches in height, on average, a jump more significant than any other population in the world. And it doesn’t look like that trend is going away anytime soon. At the same time, America is lagging behind—falling from the third and fourth position for the tallest people in the world to around 40th for both men and women.
“There was a time when the U.S. was the land of plenty. But increasingly over time, the quality of nutrition has worsened,” Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London, who helped to lead the study, commented.
That can be attributed—in part—to income inequality, which has increased in the United States since the 1970s.
“In some sense, you have a large part of the population who are not getting quality food,” Ezzati continues. “That drags down the whole place.”
For the study, Ezzati and a group of almost 800 scientists combed through 1,500 surveys to comprise the measured heights for about 18.6 million people in 200 countries.
East Asians stood out from the crowd for their immense growth, and in Africa, people are actually shrinking.
Interestingly, Sweden used to be home to both the tallest men and women in 1914. But today, Baltic countries take the lead—and both Latvia and Estonia rank in the top five for the tallest men and women. Across the board, men are taller than women in every country by about 5 inches, on average.
Although there is a genetic factor to the equation, the average height of a country is a good litmus test for the general health of the population. Healthwise, it’s better to be taller. Height has also been linked to higher rates of success at life.
“Being taller is actually a good marker of better educational attainment and higher income. Those are big changes with big benefits to society,” Ezzati says.
When it comes to height, The Netherlands still dominate. Other countries that make the top 10 list include Denmark, Norway, Germany, and Croatia.
Source: NPR.org, telegraph.co.uk