Tuesday, 28 May, 2024
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Dutch the worldʼs tallest people for 60 years but now shrinking — CBS data

The Dutch national statistics office (CBS) has confirmed that men and women of the Netherlands are the world’s tallest people, and have been for 60 years, but are now shrinking.

The latest data found the average 19-year-old man stood at slightly more than 182.9cm in 2020, while women born in the same year measured 169.3cm.

The finding by the government’s Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS) means the Netherlands maintains its spot, which it has held since 1958, except for 1967 when the men born that year came in at second place in the rankings.

But based on surveys of 719,000 people aged 19 to 60, the CBS reports that after a period of stagnation and now clear contraction, Dutch men born in 2001 are on average 1cm shorter than the generation born in the Netherlands in 1980, and Dutch women are 1.4cm smaller.

“The decrease is partly related to the increased immigration of shorter new population groups and the children born from these populations in the Netherlands,” government statisticians said.

“But growth also stagnated in the generations in which both parents were born in the Netherlands, and in the generations in which all four grandparents were born in the Netherlands. Men without a migration background did not get any taller and women without a migration background show a downward trend.”

Dr Gert Stulp, at the University of Groningenʼs faculty of behavioural and social sciences said that while theories at this point were merely speculative, he would be interested to see whether the economic crash in 2007 might have had an impact.

“Perhaps things like the financial crisis have meant that some children grew up in poorer conditions than in earlier cohorts,” he said. “We know inequality affects average height, and poorer childhood conditions lead to less growth in the vertical direction.”

The discovery of a similar trend in the US suggests that the related increased consumption of unhealthy fast food could be a factor, he suggested. “Diets may have changed,” Stulp said. “Perhaps diets the past years had fewer nutrients important for growth. This is apparently why the Americans are shrinking; poorer diets, more calories, but fewer nutrients.”

More than a century ago, the tallest people were still mainly in North America and northern Europe, with Sweden and Norway standing proudly above all.

It was only in the first half of the 1900s that the Netherlands enjoyed a growth spurt, hitting the heights in the 1950s.

The Guardian adds that Dutch men born in 1930 had reached an average height of 175.6cm. Those born in 1980 topped 183.9cm – a growth of 8.3cm in 50 years. The generation of women born in 1930 reached an average of 165.4cm while those born in 1980 reached 170.7cm, almost 5.3cm extra in height.


The Guardian article – Dutch are world’s tallest people – but they’re shrinking, study shows (Open access)


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