Here’s a tall story: Netherlands and Latvia lead world for people’s height

If you want to see a tall population of men, go to the Netherlands. Tall women? Latvia. And in the United States, which lags behind dozens of other countries in height, the average for adults stopped increasing about 20 years ago. That’s the word from researchers who analysed a century’s worth of height data from 200 countries. Results were released Monday in the journal eLife. The tallest men in the new analysis were Dutch, with an average height of about 6ft (182.5cm). Latvia topped the list for women, with an average height of 5ft 6in (170cm).

So changes over time and variations across the world are largely environmental.

Lead scientist Majid Ezzati

National height averages are useful as an indicator of nutrition, health care, environment and general health that people have experienced from the womb through adolescence, said Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London, who led the research. Genes also influence height. The researchers calculated average height for 18 year olds, roughly the age when people stop growing. They drew on more than 1,400 studies that covered more than 18.6 million adults who reached that age between 1914 and 2014. It finds Iranian men and South Korean women have had the biggest spurts, increasing their height by an average of more than 16cm (6in) and 20cm (8in). In the UK, the sexes have gone up virtually in parallel by about 11cm (4in). “Mr Average” in Britain is now 178cm (5ft 10in) tall; Ms Average stands at 164cm (5ft 5in).