The average height for both males and females has substantially increased over the past century, but it varies depending on location and several other factors.
On average, a male will be taller than their great-grandfather. However, how much taller will vary significantly by region, nutritional status, and other factors.
In this article, learn about the average height of males worldwide, which factors contribute, and medical conditions that affect height.
Although this marks a growth of more than 2 inches, the rate at which people in the U.S. are growing has slowed compared with other nations.
In 1896, U.S. males were the third tallest in the world. Since then, they have moved to 37th place for average height.
This is not because males in the U.S. are shrinking. Other nations are growing at a faster rate while the U.S. increases in average height.
Every 20 years, U.S. adults gained about 2 inches on their parents. However, today's children will average the same height as their parents. This is mainly due to better health and nutrition.
Over the past few decades, U.S. children have faced fewer growth-stunting nutritional problems or health issues, so they have grown taller. However, because this improvement in health has persisted for the past 20 years or so, children are no longer growing taller than their parents.
A 2016 study in the journal eLife reports that nations that have experienced more significant improvements in health and nutrition have a taller average height.
People from East Asia have seen significant height gains over the past century. Iranian males have grown more than those of any other nation, with height increases averaging 6 inches during this time.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, poor nutrition has stunted growth, reversing height gains over the past two decades.
Males born in the Netherlands are the tallest worldwide, with heights averaging just under 72 inches (6' 0"). Those from Eastern Europe also rank near the top of the list.
Indonesia has an average height of 62.25 inches (5' 2"), the lowest in the world. Malawi is a close second, with an average height of 63 inches (5' 3"). Yemen, Laos, and Madagascar also have some of the shortest males worldwide.
In the United Kingdom and Australia, the average male is around 70 inches tall (5' 10"). In France, the average male measures 69.5 inches (5' 9").
In most cases, female height tracks male height, such that nations with taller males also have taller females.
Height is around 80% heritable. This means that 80% of height differences between people occur due to genetic factors. Genetics may have a stronger influence on the height differences between individuals living in environments that offer quality nutrition and little exposure to disease.
In more challenging conditions, however, factors such as diet and exposure to disease can significantly affect height.
Other factors that may affect height include:
Birth weight: Birth weight is the result of many factors, including genetics and nutrition in the womb. It is also a significant predictor of height.
Premature birth: Premature babies tend to have a lower birth weight, and prematurity is also an independent factor that can affect height. Therefore, premature babies may grow into shorter adults.
Hormones: Hormones affect growth throughout life, especially during puberty. Hormonal imbalances can make people unusually tall or short.
Nutrition: Nutrition is an important factor in growth. People who have poor nutrition may not grow as tall, especially those who do not get enough calcium, vitamin D, or other key vitamins and minerals.
Geographic location: There is a significant relationship between geographic location and ethnicity, which can contribute to height. Beyond this factor, location affects exposure to natural sunlight, which is a source of vitamin D. Location can also impact a person's access to healthful food, poverty levels, and overall health.
Stunted growth: Factors that stunt growth can cause people to grow less tall than they otherwise would. These factors may include eating disorders, severe illnesses, and exposure to some medications.
People with achondroplasia are an average of 48 inches tall (4' 0").
Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasias (SED) causes a person to develop a shorter-than-average trunk.
It is also a genetic condition, but many people do not receive a diagnosis until middle childhood.
Diastrophic dysplasia is a rare genetic form of dwarfism that shortens a person's calves and forearms.
Dwarfs may experience a variety of health issues. SED, for example, can cause severe osteoarthritis.
Gigantism is almost always the result of a pituitary tumor, though some rare medical conditions can also cause excessive growth. These include:
- Carney complex
- McCune-Albright syndrome
- multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1
People who are extremely tall are also at risk of several health issues. Their excessive size can strain the metabolic system and cause cardiovascular problems, including an enlarged heart.
There is a strong link between height and weight in terms of health. Working toward a healthy body mass index (BMI) involves weight increasing with height in a proportional way.
A healthy BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 indicates overweight, while a BMI above 30 suggests obesity. A BMI below 18.5 is a sign of underweight.
Although BMI is not an exact science and cannot give a fully accurate picture of health status, it does suggest that height and weight relate to each other.
For an average male in the U.S. (69 inches tall), a healthy weight would be 128–169 pounds (around 58–77 kilograms).
People with overweight or obesity may be vulnerable to a wide range of medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Am I stuck with my height, or is there any way to make myself taller through diet?
Heredity is about 80% responsible for height, and there is nothing a person can do to change that. Growth plates will have fused by the time a person becomes an adult.
The other 20% of a person’s height is attributable to good nutrition, a healthful lifestyle, and exercise as a child. Therefore, there is little an adult can do to change their height.Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.