Are people getting taller?

Since I grew to a height of about 5 foot 10 at the age of 15, just about every relative and family friend of previous generations has commented that ‘girls are getting so tall nowadays’. Are we? :slight_smile: Is there any evidence that women are on average taller than they were 50 or 100 years ago?

I have two great aunts who are around 5 foot 10, which leads me to suspect there were tall girls around, they just weren’t fashionable - but the elderly counter-argument is that ‘they were very unusual in their day’ :wink:

Furthermore, is this supposed phenomenon happening to guys too, and being missed because everyone expects men to be taller? :wink:

Awaiting international perspectives with interest,

I think that, to some extent, yes. Better childhood nutrition and pregnancy/infant care has lead to an increase in the average adult height…this has been happening for a LONG time.

I’d be interested in seeing some actual stats on it.

side note…I recall seeing a news item a while ago about how Japanese kids are much taller than their older relatives of only a generation or two ago due to the introduction of a western diet (i.e., more meat). The kids were were having trouble sitting at their desks in school because they were so much taller.

I’ve noticed that with my son. When he was only an infant, he was about a foot long. By the time he was 10, he was around four feet tall… and now, in college at age 20, he’s almost six feet tall. So, he’s definitely getting taller. If he keeps this up, he’ll probably hit about 10 feet tall by the time he’s 50.

Was he a preemie? The 5th percentile is 18 inches, a lot longer than a foot.

Could nutrition have been so generally poor in previous generations to stunt growth, though? And if so, does this mean well-off people were taller because they had access to more, and better quality, food?

Definately! :slight_smile: The problem is, where to find them - do censuses (er, censi?) record height? Medical records perhaps…? ponder

Thankyou for your reply Phobos :slight_smile:


I can’t speak for the last 50-100 years but I’ve seen an exhibit at The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History which might shed some light.

It was part of the ‘development of human civilization’ exhibit (whatever it was called). Every few feet they would have an exhibit on a specific period in time (5000 years ago, 4000 years ago, etc…) and part of that exhibit would be a painting of a man and woman in period clothing painted ‘life size’. There was definitely a trend towards larger and larger humans.

I seem to recall that my kid sister (who would have been 12-14 at the time) really thought the paintings were great because she was as tall or taller than some of the adults from WAY back. I’ve got some pictures somewhere of her towering (all 5" nothing of her at the time) over the people from Babylon.

When I was about 10 years old I visited Melbourne and saw Captain Cook’s cottage. Everyone who crouched into the house remarked on his tiny bed - it would even have been too small for me at that age :wink:

However, I recently read in ‘Noah’s Flood’ by Ryan and Pitman (about the flooding of the Black Sea) that a centuries-old tomb was uncovered in the Gobi desert that contained a woman who was “nearly 6 feet tall”! So, were the Gobi residents naturally extraordinarily tall, or were they eating a suprisingly good diet?

The diet idea is a little shaky in that surely there would have been great differences observed between poor people with inadequate diets and rich people who ate well, as I noted above. I wonder, did the English explorers who first settled in America have surprisingly tall children due to the marvellously expanded diet the new continent provided (as detailed in Bill Bryson’s ‘Made in America’)? On the other hand, diet is the only factor I can think of that would allow the change in height to occur so rapidly.

The pondering continues…:slight_smile:


 ROFL well said, Dex. Apparently you missed Math the day they talked about Bell Curves. Your son will peak at 38, at a height of 8 feet. Thereafter, his height will slowly diminish, until at the age of 76, he is just slightly over three feet tall. So, SAVE those baby clothes! That stroller can EASILY be re-fitted for later use !!!

Gave me a great grin.


DEX- on a related issue, I’d offer hard stats from a good cite, if only -SOB- I could learn how to import an active hyperlink into my posts here. Can you help me with this? As for why I’m even asking this in the middle of a thread, I’d suggest that for hard data on growth rates in the USA, go to the A.P.A. site. ( Amer. Pediatrics Ass’n).

For worldwide, I’d try UNICEF- or it’s offspring. I have to believe there will be charts there, broken down by age, country, RACE, etc. The race thing is interesting to me, because my kids are both Korean. They came here as infants. Will they be taller here, as a result of Western Vitamins/ Higher Protein/ My damned fine cooking? Or, are they what they are?


p.s. god, what an un-focused posting. Sorry.

It’s time for a little actual information to be inserted into this discussion. Yes, people are getting teller and yes, nutrition is the major factor. There are some details about this to be found on

In 1900 the average member of the British army was 5’6". George Washington was revered for his tremdous height. He was 6’3", so he wouldn’t stand out today.

People have gotten taller progressively for the past 200 years in the wealthy nations,with the exception of the period of the industrial revolution when times were so bad for most people that the average height fell a little.

There are other factors at work as well. Women strongly prefer taller men, so shorter people are being very slowly removed from the gene pool. Gene therapy has also come into play as a way of preventing the “birth defect” of shortness. These are only minor factors in the sudden increase in human height. Nutrition is the paramount factor, and yes, people in wealthy nations are significantly taller than those in the third world. There are exceptions, of course, but this is the general rule.

Not only are folks getting taller from historical times to the present, they are growing taller right now. When Mercedes-Benz redesigned their SEL-type megacruisers for the 1990s, their research showed that from approximately 1980 (when the previous model of the S-Class was designed) to about 1990 (when the version I’m talking about was designed) their clientele were on average over an inch taller than they had been in 1980. Hence the sort of dorky, bulbous roof of the 1990s S-Class cars, which were built to specifically provide an extra inch-and-a-half of headroom.

We once had a very tall snail come into our dealership. He said, "I want one of those big, fast V-12 S-cars. But I want you to take the “EL” off of the “SEL” badge, and I want you to paint a big letter S under each door. When we asked him why, he said, "when I take off from a stoplight, I want everyone to say–

No, I can’t go through with this.

mmmm… escargot (S-Car Go for the humor impaired). Time to hit that little French place down the street.

Well, my vegetarian relatives claim that it’s not due to getting more protein, but to all the hormones that they’re injecting into beef cattle nowadays. Please don’t ask me what I think of this opinion.

Oh, and please pass me another cheeseburger, would you?

At one of the Smithsonians in D.C. (Natural Hist. IIRC), they have an area where you “walk through time” so to speak. You progress from thousands of years ago to present day, and at certain intervals, it shows the average height of men and women of the day (+ lots of other cool info). I, at a fairly average 6’1", would have been a freak-beast way back when. The average height for men was once extremely low, at or below 5’ IIRC. Women were usually a few inches less.

See a previous thread, Why are we getting taller?

This is an anecdote. This is only an anecdote. Mary Queen of Scots stood 5’11". This was only an anecdote. In the even this had been real proof of any kind, you would have been instructed so.

It would certainly lend a little creedenc eto fables of Giants that lived in other lands… people in a far away land that had better beanstalks, for example might appear to be giants to those who are more nutritionally challenged.

Cecil Adams, briefly, on people getting taller.

The nutritional end of it might be supported by the traditional association of above-normal height with royalty. They, at least, had cake to eat when there was no bread.

If we ARE, then I’d like to know where my share of all that heighth is. Yes, I’m the dwarfie one in the corner. No need to notice me. Carry on.

Welcome to the message board Hat Doggie. (Welcoming is a tradition here, although you’re the first I’ve personally welcomed, and no one welcomed me. People tend to be welcomed more when their first post is the start of a thread and I seldom start threads.)

Minor nit with this statement. I’m sure you meant hormone therapy, not gene therapy. I don’t think anyone has successfully managed to insert a gene into a living person yet. At least not where it fixes some problem. (I’m sure I’ll be corrected if that assertion is false.)

But they give growth hormones to children who would otherwise “grow up” to be dwarfs, and even to some who would just be on the short side. It’s overkill in some cases as the kid may be just a little late in hitting their growth phase.