(QCostarica) A study by the Imperial College London (ICL) published Tuesday revealed that on average, Ticos (Costa Rica) are mid-table among the world’s tallest and shortest.
The 100-year global study finds Costa Rican men have increased their average height by about 11.2 centimetres (4.4 inches) and women 13.7 (5.4 inches).
At an average height of 1.56m (5.2ft), Ticas (Costa Rican women) are just seven centimetres above the shortest in the world, Guatemalan at 1.49m.
These figures are, however, far below Latvian women, the tallest women in the world, averaging 1.70m (5.6ft).
For their part, Tico men, whose average was nearly 1.58m in 1896, managed to reach the adult height of about 1.69m, 18 centimeters below their Dutch peers. The study found Dutch men are the tallest, with an average height of 1.82m.
While the Dutch and Latvian are the most height of the world, the East Timorese and Guatemalan are the shortest.
The 800-strong research team, which worked with the World Health Organization, used data from various sources including military conscription figures, health and nutrition population surveys and epidemiological studies. The scientists use these to generate height information for 18-year-olds in 1914 through to 18-year-olds in 2014.
The study says human height is strongly influenced by nutrition and environmental factors, although genetic factors can also play a role in individuals. Children and teens who are better nourished and live in better environments tend to be taller. Height also has lifelong consequences. Some studies have found that taller people tend to live longer, get a better education and earn more. But being tall may also increase some health risks, with studies linking height to a higher risk of developing ovarian and prostate cancers.
“This study gives us a picture of the health of nations over the past century,” said Majid Ezzati, an Imperial professor of public health. He said the findings underlined the need “to address children and adolescents’ environment and nutrition on a global scale.”
The difference between the tallest and shortest countries in 2014 was about 23 cm for men – an increase of 4 cm on the height gap in 1914. The height difference between the tallest and shortest countries for women has remained the same across the century, at about 20 cm.
The height difference between men and women has on average remained largely unchanged over 100 years – the average height gap was about 11 cm in 1914 and 12 cm in 2014.
The researchers also found that some countries have stopped growing over the past 30 to 40 years, despite showing initial increases in the beginning of the century of study. The United States was one of the first high-income countries to plateau, and other countries that have seen similar patterns include the UK, Finland, and Japan. By contrast, Spain and Italy and many countries in Latin America and East Asia are still increasing in height.
Among the findings the team found that:
- Dutch men are the tallest on the planet, with an average height of 182.5cm. Latvian women are the tallest on the planet, with an average height of 170cm.
- The top four tallest countries for men are the Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia and Latvia. The top four tallest countries for women are Latvia, the Netherlands, Estonia and the Czech Republic.
- Men from Timor Leste were the smallest in the world in 2014, with an average height of 160cm. Women from Guatemala were the smallest in 2014 with an average height of 149cm.
- The difference between the tallest and shortest countries in the world in 2014 was about 23cm for men – an increase of 4cm on the height gap in 1914. The height difference between the world’s tallest and shortest countries for women has remained the same across the century, at about 20cm.
- The height difference between men and women has on average remained largely unchanged over 100 years – the average height gap was about 11cm in 1914 and 12cm in 2014.
- The average height of young men and women has decreased by as much as 5cm in the last 40 years in some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa such as Sierra Leone, Uganda and Rwanda.
- Australian men in 2014 were the only non-European nationality in the top 25 tallest in the world.
- In East Asia, South Korean and Chinese men and women are now taller than their Japanese counterparts.
- Adult height plateaued in South Asian countries like Bangladesh and India at around 5-10 cm shorter than in East Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea.
- The smallest adult men in 1914 were found in Laos, where the average male height was 153cm, a similar height to a well-nourished 12-year-old boy living today. In 1914 the smallest women were found in Guatemala, where the average female height was 140cm, a similar height to a well-nourished 10-year-old girl.
Countries with tallest men
Countries with tallest women
- Czech Republic
Countries with the shortest men
Countries with shortest women
“A century of trends in adult human height” by Ezzati et al is published in the journal eLife.