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A century of trends in adult human height

Journal article
Authors James Bentham
Mariachiara Di Cesare
Gretchen A Stevens
Bin Zhou
Honor Bixby
Melanie Cowan
Cecilia Björkelund
Robert Eggertsen
Georg Lappas
Lauren Lissner
Annika Rosengren
Published in eLife
Volume 5
Pages e13410
ISSN 2050-084X
Publication year 2016
Published at Institute of Medicine
Pages e13410
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.13410
Subject categories Health Sciences

Abstract

Being taller is associated with enhanced longevity, and higher education and earnings. We reanalysed 1472 population-based studies, with measurement of height on more than 18.6 million participants to estimate mean height for people born between 1896 and 1996 in 200 countries. The largest gain in adult height over the past century has occurred in South Korean women and Iranian men, who became 20.2 cm (95% credible interval 17.5–22.7) and 16.5 cm (13.3–19.7) taller, respectively. In contrast, there was little change in adult height in some sub-Saharan African countries and in South Asia over the century of analysis. The tallest people over these 100 years are men born in the Netherlands in the last quarter of 20th century, whose average heights surpassed 182.5 cm, and the shortest were women born in Guatemala in 1896 (140.3 cm; 135.8–144.8). The height differential between the tallest and shortest populations was 19-20 cm a century ago, and has remained the same for women and increased for men a century later despite substantial changes in the ranking of countries.

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