Height has been linked to life expectancy, diseases, and even educational and financial success. How do you measure up against the average height for men in your country? And what can your height and waistline tell you about your health?
Average height of men by region
You may wonder if you're shorter or taller than the average height for men in your country, or how you measure up on a global scale. Several factors influence how tall you could grow -understanding them, and knowing your height-to-weight ratio, can help you understand your own health a bit better.
Average height for men in the UK
In the UK, the average man is considered relatively tall compared with the other countries in the world. According to 2022 data1, the average height for men here is 178.2 cm - this is equal to 5 ft 9 in.
Average height for men in the USA, Canada, Australia, and India
There's not a great deal of difference in height between men from the UK and those in the USA, Australia, and Canada. On average, Indian men are four to five inches shorter than these countries - this reflects the general trend that South Asia is the continent with the shortest height.
- The average height for men in Canada - 178.8 cm/ 5 ft 9 in.
- The average height for men in Australia - 178.8 cm/ 5 ft 9 in.
- The average height for men in the USA - 176.9 cm/ 5 ft 8 in.
- The average height for men in India - 166.5 cm/ 5 ft 5 in.
What are the 5 tallest countries for men?
- The Netherlands - 183.8 cm/ 6 ft.
- Montenegro - 183.3 cm/ 6 ft.
- Denmark - 181.6 cm/ 5 ft 10 in.
- Serbia - 180.7 cm/ 5 ft 9 in.
- Norway - 180.5 cm/ 5 ft 9 in.
What are the 5 shortest countries for men?
- Indonesia - 158 cm/ 5 ft 2 in.
- Bolivia - 159.8 cm/ 5 ft 2 in.
- The Philippines - 161.8 cm/ 5 ft 3 in.
- Vietnam - 162.1 cm/ 5 ft 3 in.
- Cambodia - 162.5 cm/ 5 ft 3 in.
Factors that influence height
There is almost 25.8 cm (10.2 in) between the shortest and tallest average height for men in the world. Within any given population, the actual height difference can be even greater than this. This is because there are several factors that influence differences in height. These influence both men and women equally, but women have genetics to thank for shorter average heights.
Experts believe that your inherited DNA determines around 80% of your height2. This means that 80% of height differences between people can be attributed to genetics. This is a predetermined height that could never be changed, no matter where you grew up or how your health has been affected.
Genetics also partially explains the height differences between different countries. When it comes to the biological differences between regions, each race has a set of shared genetic characteristics, including average height3.
But this is only part of the story. Your location also impacts many other height-influencing factors, including your exposure to vitamin D through sunlight, access to nutritious food, and vulnerability to serious diseases.
What you eat growing up also affects how tall you'll grow. Key nutrients such as vitamin D and calcium are needed for bone growth, and so a diet lacking in these could lead you to fall short of your potential maximum height.
Birth weight and premature birth
Your birth weight is determined by several factors, including genetics and the nutrition you receive in the womb. It's an important predictor of a person's adult height - the general rule is that the more you weigh at birth, the taller you're likely to be4.
Premature babies - those born before their due date - usually have a below average birth weight. At the same time, prematurity is also an independent factor that slows down growth. Although many preterm babies reach the same average heights as non-preterm babies in adulthood, many are shorter in childhood and adolescence5.
Environment versus genetics - The Romans in Britian
The Roman occupation in Britain during 200-410 AD is a great example of the effects of the environment on average height. Although the genetic traits of Britons didn't change, average height rose from 167 cm (5 ft 5 in) to 170 cm (5 ft 6 in) during this period.
Scientists attribute this national growth spurt to improved health thanks to the Roman's infrastucture6:
- Cleaner drinking water.
- Improved sanitation systems.
- A more varied diet.
Over time, height declined when Britons abandoned Roman cities and their more hygienic water and waste systems.
What medical conditions can affect men's height?
Children or adolescents affected by serious diseases and disorders will generally be shorter as adults7. Here are some examples8:
- Illnesses affecting the whole body, known as systemic diseases - for example diabetes, heart disease, and digestive tract diseases.
- Illnesses that create hormone imbalances, known as endocrine diseases - for example growth hormone deficiency and Cushing’s syndrome.
A handful of medical conditions can also lead to extremes in height, including:
- Achondroplasia - leads to short legs and arms and is the most common cause of those with short stature (medical term: dwarfism).
- Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasias (SED) - leads to a shorter trunk.
- Pituitary tumours - in children these tumours can cause excess growth and result in people becoming much taller than they would have.
- Acromegaly - is a condition in adults where too much growth hormone is produced causing increased height but also increased bone in arms, hands and the face. There are also a number of other symptoms associated with this rare condition. Famously, Richard Kiel (Jaws in James Bond) had this condition.
What is the link between height, weight, and health?
Do taller people enjoy better health and wellbeing? Studies suggest that people who are taller - but aren't extremely tall - generally live longer and have a lesser chance of developing some diseases, including stroke and heart disease7. However, being tall can also make you more at risk of some cancers, including, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, colorectal, and kidney cancer.
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Extremes of height at both ends of the spectrum can also have lots of health risks. For example, being very short could lead to back pain or breathing difficulties if you have a hunched or swayed back, while being very tall puts extra strain on your metabolic systems, increasing your chances of heart disease and diabetes.
Height and weight
Some of these health issues are outside of your control, but others aren't. While you can't control your height, you can manage your weight, and your height to weight ratio determines your risk of cardiovascular illnesses - diseases affecting you heart and blood vessels.
It's this rule that favours taller people - it's generally easier to maintain a healthy weight-height balance when you're tall. If you've ever had a healthcare professional check your body mass index (BMI), this is what they're measuring.
- A BMI calculator works out if your weight is healthy for your height.
Although a useful tool, BMI doesn't tell the whole story, for example, where fat sits on your body and influencing factors such as gender. Modern studies reveal that storing excess fat around your waist is a significant predictor of health. Relative fat mass (RFM) aims to take this into account9.
- A RFM calculator specifically measures the fat around your weight in comparison to your height.
- World Population Review: Average height by country 2022.
- National Library of Medicine: Is height determined by genetics?
- Mittal et al: Short stature: understanding the stature of ethnicity in height determination.
- Jelenkovic et al: Associations between birth size and later height from infancy through adulthood.
- Ferguson et al: Adult height of preterm infants: a longitudinal cohort study.
- University of Oxford: Highs and lows of an Englishman’s average height over 2000 years.
- Franco: A century of trends in adult human height.
- Children’s National: Pediatric growth problems.
- Woolcott and Bergman: Relative fat mass (RFM) as a new estimator of whole-body fat percentage.