Saturday 04 December 2021

Tall tales: The Dutch are getting shorter but are still the tallest

Photo: Clément Bucco-Lechat via Wikimedia Commons

Although the Dutch are still the tallest people in the world, they are shrinking.

A report from Dutch statistics office the CBS shows that the generation born in around 1980 was the tallest, with an average man measuring 183.9cm compared with the average 175.6cm of the generation born in 1930.

Women born in 1980 were also 5.3cm taller than the class of 1930, measuring 170.7cm. However, the current generation of 19-year-old men are on average 1cm smaller than their giant forebears, while women have shrunk by 1.4cm.

The report says that the shrinking average is partly to do with immigration, but that growth is also ‘stagnating’ in people whose parents and grandparents are inbred Dutch.

‘Men who are not children of immigrants did not get taller and women who are not children of immigrants are showing a downward trend,’ the report says.

The report is based on health data from 2012, 2016 and 2020, comparing the lengths of 719,000 people between 19 and 60 years old. The data is used to estimate the average length of 19-year-olds for each generation.

Average length of men (light blue) and women based on birth year  Table: CBS

However, the Netherlands still has on average the tallest people in the world, and the generation born at the beginning of this century has maintained this status, the report says.

Gert Stulp, a researcher on reproductive decision-making and height at the University of Groningen, told the Volkskrant that the shrinking trend was mirrored in other countries. ‘In the United States, for instance, growth is slowing down and women are getting a little smaller,’ he reportedly said.

‘This is possibly because people are eating worse, with less variety and more fatty foods. This might also play a role in the Netherlands.’

Different regions in the Netherlands vary in height, with people from Friesland measuring some 3cm more than those from Limburg, but it is unknown why this might be.

In previous years, studies have shown that while the Dutch might not be getting taller, they are getting fatter.

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