Human height

Human height

Human height is the distance from the bottom of the feet to the top of the head in a human body standing erect.

When populations share genetic background and environmental factors, average height is frequently characteristic within the group. Exceptional height variation (around 20% deviation from average) within such a population is usually due to gigantism or dwarfism; which are medical conditions due to specific genes or to endocrine abnormalities[1].

In regions of extreme poverty or prolonged warfare, environmental factors like malnutrition during childhood or adolescence may account for marked reductions in adult stature even without the presence of any of these medical conditions.


Average height around the world

The average height for each sex within a population varies significantly, with men being (on average) taller than women. Women ordinarily reach their greatest height at a younger age than men, because puberty generally occurs earlier in women than in men. Vertical growth stops when the long bones stop lengthening, which occurs with the closure of epiphyseal plates. These plates are bone growth centers that disappear ("close") under the hormonal surges brought about by the completion of puberty. Adult height for one sex in a particular ethnic group follows more or less a normal distribution.

Adult height between populations often differs significantly, as presented in detail in the chart below. For example, the average height of women from the Czech Republic is greater than that of men from Malawi. This may be caused by genetic differences, childhood lifestyle differences (nutrition, sleep patterns, physical labor), or both.

The tallest living man is Sultan Kösen of Turkey, at 2.51 m (8 ft 3 in). The tallest man in modern history was Robert Pershing Wadlow (1918–1940), from Illinois, in the United States, who was 2.72 m (8 ft 11 in) at the time of his death. Yao Defen of China is the tallest living woman in the world at 2.33 m (7 ft 7 12 in), as confirmed by Guinness World Records in 2010. The tallest female in medical history was Zeng Jinlian of Hunan, China, who stood 2.48 m (8 ft 1 12 in) when she died at the age of 17. The shortest adult human on record is Gul Mohammed of New Delhi at 0.57 m (1 ft 10 12 in).

Depending on sex, genetic and environmental factors, shrinkage of stature may begin in middle age in some individuals but is universal in the extremely aged. This decrease in height is due to such factors as decreased height of inter-vertebral discs because of desiccation, atrophy of soft tissues and postural changes secondary to degenerative disease.

Below are average adult heights by country/geographical region. (The original studies and sources should be consulted for details on methodology and the exact populations measured, surveyed, or considered.)

As with any statistical data, the accuracy of this data may be questionable for various reasons:

  • An extremely small sample of the population may have been measured, which makes it uncertain whether this sample accurately represents the entire population (for example, one source only measured 4482 males in the US to determine average height of US males from 2003–2006).[citation needed]
  • The measured sample may have been formed by inviting volunteers, rather than choosing people at random.
  • The height of each person can change in the short-term depending on factors such as the amount of exercise done directly before measurement, or the time elapsed since lying down for a significant period of time.
  • Several of the studies allowed subjects to report their height, rather than being physically measured.
Country/Region Average male height Average female height Sample population /
age range
Methodology Year Source
Algeria 1.727 m (5 ft 8 in) 20-30 Measured 2006–2008 [2]
Argentina 1.735 m (5 ft 8 12 in) 1.608 m (5 ft 3 12 in) 17 (healthy) Measured 1998–2001 [3]
Australia 1.748 m (5 ft 9 in) 1.634 m (5 ft 4 12 in) 18+ Measured 1995 [4]
Australia 1.784 m (5 ft 10 in) 1.645 m (5 ft 5 in) 18–24 Measured 1995 [4]
Austria 1.796 m (5 ft 10 12 in) 1.671 m (5 ft 6 in) 21–25 Self Reported 1997–2002 [5]
Azerbaijan 1.718 m (5 ft 7 12 in) 1.654 m (5 ft 5 in) 16+ Measured 2005 [6]
Bahrain 1.651 m (5 ft 5 in) 1.542 m (5 ft  12 in) 19+ Measured 2002 [7]
Belgium 1.795 m (5 ft 10 12 in) 1.678 m (5 ft 6 in) 21–25 Self Reported 1997–2002 [5]
Bolivia – Aymara 1.600 m (5 ft 3 in) 1.422 m (4 ft 8 in) 20–29 Measured 1970 [8]
Brazil 1.707 m (5 ft 7 in) 1.588 m (5 ft 2 12 in) 18+ Measured 2008–2009 [9]
Brazil 1.731 m (5 ft 8 in) 1.611 m (5 ft 3 12 in) 20–24 Measured 2008–2009 [9]
Bulgaria 1.752 m (5 ft 9 in) 1.632 m (5 ft 4 12 in) Measured 2010


Cameroon 1.706 m (5 ft 7 in) 1.613 m (5 ft 3 12 in) Urban adults Measured 2003 [11]
Canada 1.736 m (5 ft 8 12 in) 1.595 m (5 ft 3 in) 25+ Measured 2005 [12]
Canada 1.760 m (5 ft 9 12 in) 1.633 m (5 ft 4 12 in) 25–44 Measured 2005 [12]
Chile 1.710 m (5 ft 7 12 in) 1.591 m (5 ft 2 12 in) 15–24 Measured 2009–2010 [13]
Chile 1.712 m (5 ft 7 12 in) 1.572 m (5 ft 2 in) 25–44 Measured 2009–2010 [13]
Chile 1.683 m (5 ft 6 12 in) 1.543 m (5 ft  12 in) 45–64 Measured 2009–2010 [13]
Chile 1.642 m (5 ft 4 12 in) 1.519 m (5 ft 0 in) 65+ Measured 2009–2010 [13]
Chile 1.696 m (5 ft 7 in) 1.561 m (5 ft 1 12 in) 15+ Measured 2009–2010 [13]
China (PRC) 1.702 m (5 ft 7 in) 1.586 m (5 ft 2 12 in) Urban, 17 Measured 2002 [14]
China (PRC) 1.663 m (5 ft 5 12 in) 1.570 m (5 ft 2 in) Rural, 17 Measured 2002 [14]
Colombia 1.706 m (5 ft 7 in) 1.587 m (5 ft 2 12 in) 18–22 Measured 2002 [15]
Côte d’Ivoire 1.701 m (5 ft 7 in) 1.591 m (5 ft 2 12 in) 25–29 Measured 1985–1987 [16]
Czech Republic 1.803 m (5 ft 11 in) 1.6720 m (5 ft 6 in) 17 Measured 2006 [17]
Denmark 1.806 m (5 ft 11 in) Conscripts, 18–19 Measured 2006 [18]
Dinaric Alps 1.856 m (6 ft 1 in) 1.711 m (5 ft 7 12 in) 17 Measured 2005 [19]
Egypt 1.703 m (5 ft 7 in) 1.589 m (5 ft 2 12 in) 20-24 Measured 2008 [20]
Estonia 1.791 m (5 ft 10 12 in) 17 Measured 2003 [21]
Finland 1.784 m (5 ft 10 in) 1.652 m (5 ft 5 in) 25–34 Measured 2007 [22]
France 1.741 m (5 ft 8 12 in) 1.619 m (5 ft 3 12 in) 20+ Measured 2001 [23]
France 1.770 m (5 ft 9 12 in) 1.646 m (5 ft 5 in) 20–29 Measured 2001 [23]
Ghana 1.695 m (5 ft 6 12 in) 1.585 m (5 ft 2 12 in) 25–29 Measured 1987–1989 [16]
Gambia 1.680 m (5 ft 6 in) 1.578 m (5 ft 2 in) Rural, 21–49 Measured 1950–1974 [24]
Germany 1.780 m (5 ft 10 in) 1.650 m (5 ft 5 in) Adults Self-reported 2005 [25]
Germany 1.810 m (5 ft 11 12 in) 1.670 m (5 ft 5 12 in) 18–19 Self-reported 2005 [25]
Greece 1.781 m (5 ft 10 in) Conscripts, 18–26 Measured 2006–2007 [26]
Hong Kong 1.717 m (5 ft 7 12 in) 1.587 m (5 ft 2 12 in) 18 Measured 2006 [27]
Hungary 1.760 m (5 ft 9 12 in) 1.640 m (5 ft 4 12 in) Adults Measured 2000s [28]
Hungary 1.773 m (5 ft 10 in) 18 Measured 2008 [29]
India 1.645 m (5 ft 5 in) 1.520 m (5 ft 0 in) 20 Measured 2005–2006 [30][31]
India 1.612 m (5 ft 3 12 in) 1.521 m (5 ft 0 in) Rural, 17+ Measured 2007 [32]
Indonesia 1.580 m (5 ft 2 in) 1.470 m (4 ft 10 in) 50+ Self-reported 1997 [33]
Iran 1.703 m (5 ft 7 in) 1.572 m (5 ft 2 in) 21+ Measured 2005 [34]
Iran 1.734 m (5 ft 8 12 in) 1.598 m (5 ft 3 in) 21–25 Measured 2005 [34]
IraqBaghdad 1.654 m (5 ft 5 in) 1.558 m (5 ft 1 12 in) 18–44 Measured 1999–2000 [35]
Ireland 1.774 m (5 ft 10 in) 1.644 m (5 ft 4 12 in) 21–25 Self Reported 1997–2002 [5]
Israel 1.770 m (5 ft 9 12 in) 1.660 m (5 ft 5 12 in) 18–21 Measured 2010 [36]
Italy 1.760 m (5 ft 9 12 in) 1.650 m (5 ft 5 in) 18–40 Measured 2005 [37]
Jamaica 1.718 m (5 ft 7 12 in) 1.608 m (5 ft 3 12 in) 25–74 Measured 1994–1996


Japan 1.715 m (5 ft 7 12 in) 1.580 m (5 ft 2 in) 19 Measured 2006 [39]
Lithuania 1.813 m (5 ft 11 12 in) 1.675 m (5 ft 6 in) 18 Measured 2005 [40]
Malaysia 1.647 m (5 ft 5 in) 1.533 m (5 ft  12 in) 20+ Measured 1996 [41]
Malta 1.699 m (5 ft 7 in) 1.599 m (5 ft 3 in) Adults Self-reported 2003 [42]
Malta 1.752 m (5 ft 9 in) 1.638 m (5 ft 4 12 in) 25–34 Self-reported 2003 [42]
Malawi 1.660 m (5 ft 5 12 in) 1.550 m (5 ft 1 in) Urban, 16–60 Measured 2000 [43]
Mali 1.713 m (5 ft 7 12 in) 1.604 m (5 ft 3 in) Rural adults Measured 1992 [44]
MexicoMorelos 1.670 m (5 ft 5 12 in) 1.550 m (5 ft 1 in) Adults Self-reported 1998 [45]
Mexico 1.630 m (5 ft 4 in) 1.510 m (4 ft 11 12 in) 50+ Measured 2001 [46]
Mongolia 1.684 m (5 ft 6 12 in) 1.577 m (5 ft 2 in) 25–34 Measured 2006 [47]
Netherlands 1.799 m (5 ft 11 in) 1.667 m (5 ft 5 12 in) 25+ Self-reported 2009 [48]
Netherlands 1.837 m (6 ft  12 in) 1.693 m (5 ft 6 12 in) 25–34 Self-reported 2009 [48]
New Zealand 1.770 m (5 ft 9 12 in) 1.650 m (5 ft 5 in) 19–45 Estimates 1993–2007 [49]
New Zealand 1.745 m (5 ft 8 12 in) 1.630 m (5 ft 4 in) 45–65 Estimates 1993–2007 [49]
Nigeria 1.638 m (5 ft 4 12 in) 1.578 m (5 ft 2 in) 18–74 Measured 1994–1996


Norway 1.795 m (5 ft 10 12 in) 1.672 m (5 ft 6 in) Conscripts, 18–19 Measured 2010 [50]
Norway 1.820 m (5 ft 11 12 in) 1.690 m (5 ft 6 12 in) 20–29 Measured 2010 [51]
Peru 1.640 m (5 ft 4 12 in) 1.510 m (4 ft 11 12 in) 20+ Measured 2005 [52]
Philippines 1.619 m (5 ft 3 12 in) 1.502 m (4 ft 11 in) 20+ Measured 2003 [53]
Philippines 1.634 m (5 ft 4 12 in) 1.517 m (4 ft 11 12 in) 20–39 Measured 2003 [53]
Poland 1.785 m (5 ft 10 12 in) 1.651 m (5 ft 5 in) 18 Measured 2010 [54]
Portugal 1.728 m (5 ft 8 in) Conscripts, 21 Measured 1998–99 [55]
Singapore 1.706 m (5 ft 7 in) 1.600 m (5 ft 3 in) 17–25 2003 [56]
Slovakia 1.794 m (5 ft 10 12 in) 1.656 m (5 ft 5 in) 18 Measured 2004 [57]
South Africa 1.690 m (5 ft 6 12 in) 1.590 m (5 ft 2 12 in) 25–34 Measured 1998 [58]
South Korea 1.739 m (5 ft 8 12 in) 1.611 m (5 ft 3 12 in) 19 Measured 2006 [59]
Spain 1.761 m (5 ft 9 12 in) 1.655 m (5 ft 5 in) 21–25 Self Reported 1997–2002 [5]
Spain 1.780 m (5 ft 10 in) 1.650 m (5 ft 5 in) 21 Measured 1998–2000 [60]
Sweden 1.779 m (5 ft 10 in) 1.646 m (5 ft 5 in) 20–74 [61]
Sweden 1.815 m (5 ft 11 12 in) 1.668 m (5 ft 5 12 in) 20–29 Measured 2008 [62]
Switzerland 1.754 m (5 ft 9 in) 1.640 m (5 ft 4 12 in) 20–74 [61]
Switzerland 1.781 m (5 ft 10 in) Conscripts, 18–21 Measured 2005 [63]
Switzerland 1.782 m (5 ft 10 in) Conscripts, 19 Measured 2009 [64]
Thailand 1.675 m (5 ft 6 in) 1.573 m (5 ft 2 in) STOU university student Self-reported 1991–1995 [65]
TurkeyAnkara 1.740 m (5 ft 8 12 in) 1.589 m (5 ft 2 12 in) 18–59 Measured 2004–2006 [66]
TurkeyAnkara 1.761 m (5 ft 9 12 in) 1.620 m (5 ft 4 in) 18–29 Measured 2004–2006 [66]
TurkeyEdirne 1.737 m (5 ft 8 12 in) 1.614 m (5 ft 3 12 in) 17 Measured 2001 [67]
United Arab Emirates 1.734 m (5 ft 8 12 in) 1.564 m (5 ft 1 12 in) 2008 [68]
U.K.England 1.776 m (5 ft 10 in) 1.637 m (5 ft 4 12 in) 25–34 Measured 2008 [69]
U.K.England 1.753 m (5 ft 9 in) 1.616 m (5 ft 3 12 in) Adults Measured 2008 [69]
U.K.Scotland 1.782 m (5 ft 10 in) 1.635 m (5 ft 4 12 in) 25–34 Measured 2008 [70]
U.K.Scotland 1.750 m (5 ft 9 in) 1.613 m (5 ft 3 12 in) Adults Measured 2008 [70]
U.K.Wales 1.770 m (5 ft 9 12 in) 1.620 m (5 ft 4 in) Adults Measured 2009 [71]
U.S. 1.763 m (5 ft 9 12 in) 1.622 m (5 ft 4 in) All Americans, 20+ Measured 2003–2006 [72]
U.S. 1.776 m (5 ft 10 in) 1.632 m (5 ft 4 12 in) All Americans, 20–29 Measured 2003–2006 [72]
U.S. 1.789 m (5 ft 10 12 in) 1.648 m (5 ft 5 in) White Americans, 20–39 Measured 2003–2006 [72]
U.S. 1.780 m (5 ft 10 in) 1.632 m (5 ft 4 12 in) Black Americans, 20–39 Measured 2003–2006 [72]
U.S. 1.706 m (5 ft 7 in) 1.587 m (5 ft 2 12 in) Mexican-Americans, 20–39 Measured 2003–2006 [72]
Vietnam 1.621 m (5 ft 4 in) 1.522 m (5 ft 0 in) 25–29 Measured 1992–1993 [16]
Vietnam 1.657 m (5 ft 5 in) 1.552 m (5 ft 1 in) 20-25 students Measured 2006–2007 [73]

Determinants of growth and height

Average (50th percentile) growth curves for male and female 0–20 years.

The study of height is known as auxology. Growth has long been recognized as a measure of the health of individuals, hence part of the reasoning for the use of growth charts. For individuals, as indicators of health problems, growth trends are tracked for significant deviations and growth is also monitored for significant deficiency from genetic expectations. Genetics is a major factor in determining the height of individuals, though it is far less influential in regard to populations. Average height is increasingly used as a measure of the health and wellness (standard of living and quality of life) of populations.[citation needed] Attributed as a significant reason for the trend of increasing height in parts of Europe are the egalitarian populations where proper medical care and adequate nutrition are relatively equally distributed. Changes in diet (nutrition) and a general rise in quality of health care and standard of living are the cited factors in the Asian populations. Average height in the United States has remained essentially stagnant since the 1950s even as the racial and ethnic background of residents has shifted. Severe malnutrition is known to cause stunted growth in North Korean, portions of African, certain historical European, and other populations.[citation needed]

Sir Francis Galton's (1889) data showing the relationship between offspring height (928 individuals) as a function of mean parent height (205 sets of parents). The correlation was 0.57.

Height, like other phenotypic traits, is determined by a combination of genetics and environmental factors. A child's height based on parental heights is subject to regression toward the mean, therefore extremely tall or short parents will likely have correspondingly taller or shorter offspring, but their offspring will also likely be closer to average height than the parents themselves. Genetic potential plus nutrition minus stressors is a basic formula. Humans grow fastest (other than in the womb) as infants and toddlers, rapidly declining from a maximum at birth to roughly age 2, tapering to a slowly declining rate, and then during the pubertal growth spurt, a rapid rise to a second maxima (at around 11–12 years for female, and 13–14 years for male), followed by a steady decline to zero. On average, female growth velocity trails off to zero at about 15 or 16 years, whereas the male curve continues for approximately 3 more years, going to zero at about 18-20. These are also critical periods where stressors such as malnutrition (or even severe child neglect) have the greatest effect.

Moreover, the health of a mother throughout her life, especially during her critical periods, and of course during pregnancy, has a role. A healthier child and adult develops a body that is better able to provide optimal prenatal conditions. The pregnant mother's health is important as gestation is itself a critical period for an embryo/fetus, though some problems affecting height during this period are resolved by catch-up growth assuming childhood conditions are good. Thus, there is an accumulative generation effect such that nutrition and health over generations influences the height of descendants to varying degrees.

The age of the mother also has some influence on the her child's height. Studies in modern times have observed a gradual increase in height with maternal age, though these early studies suggest that trend is due to various socio-economic situations that select certain demographics as being more likely to have a first birth early in the mother's life.[74][75][76] These same studies show that children born to a young mother are more likely to have below average educational and behavioural development, again suggesting an ultimate cause of resources and family status rather than a purely biological explanation.[75][76]

The precise relationship between genetics and environment is complex and uncertain. Human height is 60%–80% heritable, according to several twin studies[77] and has been considered polygenic since the Mendelian-biometrician debate a hundred years ago.[citation needed] The only gene known to have an influence on human height is HMGA2. People who carry two copies of the "tall" allele of the HMGA2 gene are up to 1 cm taller than those who carry two copies of the "short" allele.[78] A genome-wide association (GWA) study of more than 180,000 individuals has identified hundreds of genetic variants in at least 180 loci associated with adult human height.[79]

The Nilotic peoples of Sudan such as the Shilluk and Dinka have been described as the tallest in the world. Dinka Ruweng males investigated by Roberts in 1953–54 were on average 1.813 m tall, and Shilluk males reached even 1.826 m.[80] The Nilotic people are characterized as having long legs, narrow bodies and short trunks, an adaptation to hot weather.[81] However, male Dinka and Shilluk refugees measured in 1995 in Southwestern Ethiopia were on average only 1.764 m and 1.726 m tall, respectively.[82] Males in the Dinaric Alps have an average height of 1.856 m (6 ft 1.1 in).[19]

Process of growth

Main pathways in endocrine regulation of growth.

Growth in stature, determined by its various factors, results from the lengthening of bones via cellular divisions chiefly regulated by somatotropin (human growth hormone (hGH)) secreted by the anterior pituitary gland. Somatotropin also stimulates the release of another growth inducing hormone Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) mainly by the liver. Both hormones operate on most tissues of the body, have many other functions, and continue to be secreted throughout life; with peak levels coinciding with peak growth velocity, and gradually subsiding with age after adolescence. The bulk of secretion occurs in bursts (especially for adolescents) with the largest during sleep.

The majority of linear growth occurs as growth of cartilage at the epiphysis (ends) of the long bones which gradually ossify to form hard bone. The legs compose approximately half of adult human height, and leg length is a somewhat sexually dimorphic trait. Some of this growth occurs after the growth spurt of the long bones has ceased or slowed. The majority of growth during growth spurts is of the long bones. Additionally, the variation in height between populations and across time is largely due to changes in leg length. The remainder of height consists of the cranium. Height is sexually dimorphic and statistically it is more or less normally distributed, but with heavy tails.

Height abnormalities

Most intra-population variance of height is genetic. Short stature and tall stature are usually not a health concern. If the degree of deviation from normal is significant, hereditary short stature is known as familial short stature and tall stature is known as familial tall stature. Confirmation that exceptional height is normal for a respective person can be ascertained from comparing stature of family members and analyzing growth trends for abrupt changes, among others. There are, however, various diseases and disorders that cause growth abnormalities. Most notably, extreme height may be pathological, such as gigantism (very rare) resulting from childhood hyperpituitarism, and dwarfism which has various causes. Rarely, no cause can be found for extreme height; very short persons may be termed as having idiopathic short stature. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2003 approved hGH treatment for those 2.25 standard deviations below the population mean (approximately the lowest 1.2% of the population). An even rarer occurrence, or at least less used term and recognized "problem", is idiopathic tall stature.

If not enough growth hormone is produced and/or secreted by the pituitary gland, then a patient with growth hormone deficiency can undergo treatment. This treatment involves the injection of pure growth hormone into thick tissue to promote growth.

Role of an individual's height

Height and (physiological and psychological) health

Certain studies have shown that height is a factor in overall health while some suggest tallness is associated with better cardio-vascular health and shortness with overall better-than-average health and longevity.[83] Cancer risk has also been found to grow with height.[84]

At the extreme end, being excessively tall can cause various medical problems, including cardiovascular problems, because of the increased load on the heart to supply the body with blood, and problems resulting from the increased time it takes the brain to communicate with the extremities. For example, Robert Wadlow, the tallest man known to verifiable history, developed trouble walking as his height increased throughout his life. In many of the pictures of the later portion of his life, Wadlow can be seen gripping something for support. Late in his life, he had to wear braces on his legs and to walk with a cane; and he died after developing an infection in his legs because he was unable to feel the irritation and cutting caused by his leg braces. Excessive tallness and excessive shortness each can cause social exclusion and discrimination for both men and women (heightism).

Sources are in disagreement about the overall relationship between height and longevity. John Kolmos, height historian, suggests that 1.88 metres (6 ft 2 in) is the ideal height for longevity.[85] On the other hand, Samaras and Elrick, in the Western Journal of Medicine, demonstrate an inverse correlation between height and longevity in several mammals including humans.[83]

Women whose height is under 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) may have a small pelvis, resulting in such complications during childbirth as shoulder dystocia.[86]

A study done in Sweden has shown that there is a strong inverse correlation between height and suicide among Swedish men.[87]

Height and occupational success

There is a large corpus of research in psychology, economics, and human biology that has assessed the relationship between several seemingly innocuous physical features (e.g., body height) and occupational success.[88] The correlation between height and success was explored decades ago.[89][90] Shorter people are considered to have an advantage in certain sports (e.g., gymnastics, race car driving, etc.). Meanwhile, there are also a few occupations in which taller people are considered to have a tangible advantage. They include certain professional sports (see section "Sports"), fashion modelling, etc. In most occupational fields, body height is not relevant to how well people are able to perform. A correlation has been found between body height and occupational success in several studies, although there may be other factors such as gender or socioeonomic status that may have been influencing the subjects' heights as well as their occupational success.[88][89][91][92] In the acting profession:[88] To become an actress, tallness is considered an advantage (the average actress is taller than the average woman[citation needed]). However, several celebrated actresses are quite short, and many leading actors are of shorter stature.

A demonstration of the height-success association can be found in the realm of politics. In the United States presidential elections, the taller candidate won 22 out of 25 times in the 20th century.[93] Historically this assumption has not always reflected reality; for instance Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, was 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in). The height of Alexander the Great is estimated at between 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) and 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m). Several world leaders of the early twentieth century, Vladimir Lenin, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin were of shorter stature.


Height helps basketball players get closer to the hoop and pass over opponents.

Height can play a significant role in contributing to success in some sports by offering certain natural advantages. For those sports where this could be a contributing factor, height can be useful (although certainly not in all cases, and is not the only factor) since in general it affects the leverage between muscle volume and bones towards greater speed of movement and power, depending on overall build, fitness and individual ability.[citation needed] However, there can also be significant disadvantages posed by size and resultant mass that could prove to be a hindrance to success. Finally, there are numerous sports where size is irrelevant.

Amateur wrestling

Height can be both helpful and detrimental in wrestling. Since taller people have more bone mass, they will generally be slightly weaker than shorter people in the same weight class. This difference is made up in part by their longer arms, which allow them a longer reach and cradle easier. Long legs are detrimental in that they can easily be attacked by a lolly (shot). They do, however, assist in performing some actions and positions such as throwing, sprawling to counter a takedown or riding legs.[citation needed] The heights of amateur wrestlers vary greatly with successful athletes being as short as Alireza Dabir at 1.71 m (5 ft 7 12 in) and as tall as Alexander Karelin at 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m).

Artistic gymnastics

In artistic gymnastics, it is advantageous to be shorter. A lower center of gravity can give an athlete better balance. A smaller athlete may also have an easier time manipulating their body in the air.[citation needed]


In baseball, being taller usually means longer legs, which power pitchers use to generate velocity and a release point closer to the plate, which means the ball reaches the batter more quickly. The ball also comes from a higher release angle opposed to a shorter pitcher. While taller position players have a larger strike zone, most position players are at least of average height because the larger frame allows them to generate more power. One exception to this generalization would be Dustin Pedroia with a height of 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in).


Taller players have an advantage in basketball because their shots have less distance to travel to the basket; they start out closer to the rebound; and their ability to reach higher into the air yields a better chance of blocking shorter players' shots.[94]

In college and professional basketball, even the shortest players are usually above the average in height compared to the general population. In men's professional basketball, the guards, the smallest players, are usually around 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) to 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m), the average height for basketball players is about 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) and the centers, the tallest players, are generally from 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) to 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m).[citation needed]


In cricket, some of the great batsmen like Donald Bradman 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in), Sachin Tendulkar 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in) and Sunil Gavaskar 1.63 m (5 ft 4 in) are or were below average height. This may be because a smaller body makes for an advantage in footwork and balance. Similarly, the most graceful wicket-keepers have tended to be average height or below. Although there are fewer tall batsmen, the stand-outs are often noted for their heavy hitting and an ability to get a long stride forward to reach a full length delivery. England's Kevin Pietersen at 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in) is a modern example of a powerful, tall batsman. Past greats like Clive Lloyd and Graeme Pollock were above 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in).

On the other hand, many of the most successful fast bowlers have been well above average height; for example past greats Joel Garner, Courtney Walsh, and Curtly Ambrose were all approximately 2.00 m (6 ft 6 12 in) tall. Similarly, Glenn McGrath, also regarded as one of the finest bowlers to play the game, was 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in) tall, well above average height. Taller bowlers have access to a higher point of release, making it easier for them to make the ball bounce uncomfortably for a batsman. For extreme pace however, bowlers tend to be closer to average height. The fastest modern bowlers have ranged from Lasith Malinga 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in) through to Dilhara Fernando at 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in), and Steve Harmison and Shaun Tait at 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in).

Height does not appear to be an advantage to spin bowling and few international spinners are ever much taller than 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in). Tall spin bowlers like Sulieman Benn (2.01 m (6 ft 7 in)) use extra pace and bounce, whereas spin is traditionally about using a looping, plunging trajectory at slow (70–90 km/h or 40–60 mph) speeds. The most successful bowlers ever in Test cricket, Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne are 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in) and 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in) respectively.


Road racing cyclists can be of all heights but their height generally determines what role they choose. Taller cyclists tend to excel at the cobbled classics, as pure power helps get over the difficult and brutal cobblestones. Cyclists over 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in) often understand the difficulties in hilly races, and realise their talents in cobbled classics from an early age and focus on them for their careers. This includes Johan Vansummeren 1.97 m (6 ft 5 12 in) Taylor Phinney 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in) and Magnus Bäckstedt 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in). In recent years Paris–Roubaix has been dominated by Fabian Cancellara 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in) and Tom Boonen 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in).

Smaller cyclists on the other hand tend to become super climbers who dominate mountain stages of Grand Tours. Their lack of body mass helps as it means they have less weight to carry up the steep inclines. Marco Pantani 1.72 m (5 ft 7 12 in), Joaquim Rodríguez 1.69 m (5 ft 6 12 in), Riccardo Riccò 1.72 m (5 ft 7 12 in), Gilberto Simoni 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in), José Rujano 1.62 m (5 ft 4 in) and Igor Antón 1.72 m (5 ft 7 12 in) are examples of pure climbers.

However none of the above mentioned small climbers are known for their time trialing abilities, and in this slightly taller climbers, known as all rounders often gain the advantage in grand tours. Lance Armstrong 1.77 m (5 ft 9 12 in), Alberto Contador 1.76 m (5 ft 9 12 in), Miguel Indurain 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in), and Denis Menchov 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in) have all won long Time trial stages in Grand Tours they won, and Samuel Sánchez 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) Alejandro Valverde 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in) and Vincenzo Nibali 1.79 m (5 ft 10 12 in) are, on top of their climbing and time trialing abilities, 3 of the worlds best descenders.

In recent years taller cyclists with low builds have become among the world's best climbers, particularly on long gradual climbs. The best examples of this are Ivan Basso 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in) who won on the Monte Zoncolan in 2010, Mauricio Soler 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in) and the brothers, Andy Schleck and Fränk Schleck both 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in) who specialise on the Alpine stages of the Tour de France.

While there are exceptions to these rules, taller climbers do feature more in cobbled races and smaller riders in mountain stages. But where cycling does become indiscriminate height wise, is in sprinting. Sprints have been contested between Robbie McEwen 1.71 m (5 ft 7 12 in) and Mario Cipollini 1.89 m (6 ft 2 12 in), or as the 2010 Milan – San Remo between Óscar Freire 1.71 m (5 ft 7 12 in) and Tom Boonen 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in).


In fencing, it is generally advantageous to be taller because a longer arm span allows one's weapon to reach one's opponent's body from a further distance – although, differences in height can be mitigated in sabre or foil, because those weapons have rules such that hitting first does not necessarily result in points. In épée, height poses a debatable advantage as the entire body is a target, and the closest point of the body (the hand) is always a sword's distance away.[citation needed]

Football (Soccer)

Football is a non-discriminatory sport when it comes to body type. A player's height may somewhat determine the position that they play; however, people of all heights have an equal opportunity to excel professionally at the sport. Goalkeepers, centre backs and "target" heading forwards tend to be taller, while players in wide, central and attacking positions tend to be shorter. A study of the greatest male players in history showed that the distribution of heights approximated the "average man" and, when also looking at the typical weight distribution, an estimated 95% of the world's population would fall into the body type distribution of great footballers. A sample of reasonably select players from ages 11–18 in the USA tended to approximate the height distribution of the population.[95][96] While the size of players is generally increasing, the most successful recent club in world football, FC Barcelona, is also the shortest club in Europe. In addition, there is an overwhelming tendency for the 11 most picked players in a squad to be shorter than their team-mates, which could suggest a bias in the scouting system.[97]

For wide, central and attacking positions the players are generally relatively shorter. Many of the best players in history have been shorter than average and in many cases gained an advantage from their low center of gravity, e.g., Maradona 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in)); Roberto Carlos, Nobby Stiles 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in); Garrincha, Lionel Messi, Romário 1.69 m (5 ft 6 12 in); Puskás, Makélélé, Iniesta, Xavi 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in). However, height is generally considered advantageous for some forwards who usually aim to score with their heads, such as Jan Koller, Stefan Maierhofer and Nikola Žigić (2.02 m (6 ft 7 12 in)) as well as Peter Crouch (2.01 m (6 ft 7 in)).

Height is often an advantage for central defenders who are assigned to stop forwards from scoring through the air, as exemplified by players like Matej Bagarić (2.01 m (6 ft 7 in)), Per Mertesacker (1.98 m (6 ft 6 in)), Brede Hangeland (1.95 m (6 ft 5 in)), Christoph Metzelder (1.94 m (6 ft 4 12 in)) and Christopher Samba (1.93 m (6 ft 4 in)).[98] There are, however, central defenders who aren't strongly above average height, such as Franco Baresi (1.76 m (5 ft 9 12 in)), Fabio Cannavaro (1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)) Carles Puyol (1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)), and Iván Córdoba (1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)).

Goalkeepers tend to be taller than average because their greater armspans and total reach when jumping enable them to cover more of the goal. Examples of particularly tall keepers include Gianluigi Buffon (1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)), Vanja Iveša, Željko Kalac, Goran Blažević, Andreas Isaksson, Edwin van der Sar (1.97 m (6 ft 5 12 in)), Petr Čech (1.96 m (6 ft 5 in)), Vladimir Stojković and Doni. In addition, there are examples of successful goalkeepers who aren't significantly taller than average, such as Jorge Campos (1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)), Óscar Pérez (1.72 m (5 ft 7 12 in)), René Higuita (1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)) Fabien Barthez (1.81 m (5 ft 11 12 in)) and Iker Casillas (1.82 m (5 ft 11 12 in)).

Gridiron football

In American and Canadian Football, a tall quarterback is at an advantage because it is easier for him to see over the heads of large offensive and defensive linemen while he is in the pocket in a passing situation. At 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in), Doug Flutie was initially considered to be too short to become a NFL quarterback despite his Heisman Trophy-winning success at the college level. In addition, shorter quarterbacks have an advantage with their lower center of gravity and balance, which means they are better able to duck under a tackle and avoid a sack. According the former Washington Redskins quarterback Eddie LeBaron, being shorter means you can throw the ball higher instead of a sidearm release, meaning it is harder for the defense to knock it down. Shorter quarterbacks also generally have a quicker release time than taller quarterbacks.

Tall wide receivers have an advantage of being able to jump considerably higher than shorter defensive backs to catch highly thrown passes. Of course, this advantage has limits because exceedingly tall receivers are normally not as agile or lack overall speed or strength. Tight ends are usually over 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in) because they need greater body mass to be effective blockers and greater height is an advantage for them as receivers, since they run shorter routes based less on speed. By contrast, shorter defensive backs are utilized because of their typically greater agility, as the ability to change directions instantly is a prerequisite for the position.

Offensive and defensive linemen tend to be at least 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) and are frequently as tall as 2.03 m (6 ft 8 in) to be massive enough to effectively play their positions. Height is especially an advantage for defensive linemen, giving them the ability to knock down passes with their outstretched arms.

Short running backs are at an advantage because their shorter stature and lower center of gravity generally makes them harder to tackle effectively. In addition, they can easily "hide" behind large offensive linemen, making it harder for defenders to react at the beginning of a play. Thus, in the National Football League and in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I football, running backs under 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in) are more common than running backs over 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in). Former Heisman Trophy winner and Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, thought by some to be the greatest running back in history, is a classic example of a running back with an extraordinarily low center of gravity, as he stood only 1.71 m (5 ft 7 12 in).

Ice hockey

While the history of the National Hockey League (NHL) is filled with diminutive players who achieved greatness (Theo Fleury, Martin St. Louis), and the highest scorer in NHL history, Wayne Gretzky, is 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in) tall and played at 185 lb (84 kg), the game's increasingly physical style has put a premium on imposing players, particularly over 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in) tall and over 100 kg (220 lb) (Mario Lemieux, Eric Lindros, Chris Pronger). Taller, bigger players have a longer reach, are more able to give out and sustain body checks, and have greater leverage on their shooting such as a slap shot[citation needed] (examples include Tyler Myers at 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m), and Eric Staal, Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, and Joe Thornton, all at 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m). The average height of an NHLer is just over 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) tall. Zdeno Chára, at 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m), is the tallest player ever to play in the NHL.

Mixed martial arts

In mixed martial arts, taller fighters have a distinct advantage in striking, because of their increased range. Shorter fighters on the other hand, tend to be stronger than taller opponents of equal weight, and often have the advantage while grappling. While height is still regarded as an overall advantage, there have been many great fighters who are shorter than average.[citation needed] Fedor Emilianenko, once widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight fighter in the world[citation needed], stands less than 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m), and has defeated opponents almost exclusively taller than him such as Hong Man Choi, who stands 2.18 m (7 ft 2 in) tall.


In rowing, tallness is advantageous, because the taller a rower is, the longer his or her stroke can potentially be, thus moving the boat more effectively. The average male Olympic rower is 1.92 m (6 ft 3 12 in), and the average female Olympic rower is 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in),[99] well over the average height.

Rugby league

Unlike rugby union, height is not generally seen as important, often extreme height being a hindrance rather than a useful attribute.[100] Second-row forwards are generally not as tall as their rugby union counterparts due to the absence of line-outs. However, recent tactics of cross-field kicking have resulted in the success of taller outside backs.

Fullbacks and halfbacks such as Andrew Johns (1.77 m (5 ft 9 12 in)), Billy Slater (1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)), Brett Hodgson (1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)), Brett Kimmorley (1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)), Cooper Cronk (1.77 m (5 ft 9 12 in)), Darren Lockyer (1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)), Hazem El Masri (1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)), Johnathan Thurston (1.79 m (5 ft 10 12 in)), Kurt Gidley (1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)), Matt Orford (1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)), Rhys Wesser (1.74 m (5 ft 8 12 in)) and Scott Prince (1.77 m (5 ft 9 12 in)) are usually average height due to their speed and agility.

Israel Folau (1.96 m (6 ft 5 in)), Greg Inglis (1.95 m (6 ft 5 in)), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (1.95 m (6 ft 5 in)), Mark Gasnier (1.94 m (6 ft 4 12 in)), Colin Best (1.89 m (6 ft 2 12 in)), Manu Vatuvei (1.89 m (6 ft 2 12 in)), Jarryd Hayne (1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)), Krisnan Inu (1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)) and Jason Nightingale (1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)) are examples of the trend in taller wingers and centres.

Rugby union

Locks are tall and typically the target of a rugby lineout.

In rugby union, lineout jumpers, generally locks, are usually the tallest players, as this increases their chance of winning the ball, whereas scrum-halves are usually nearer the average. As examples, current world-class locks Victor Matfield, Chris Jack, and Paul O'Connell are all at least 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in), while the sport's all-time leader in international appearances, scrum-half George Gregan, is 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in).[101]


Professional sumo wrestlers are required to be at least 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in) tall.[citation needed] Some aspiring sumo athletes have silicone implants added to the tops of their heads to reach the necessary height.[102] The average height for a sumo wrestler is 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in), far above the national average in Japan.


Height is generally considered advantageous in swimming. Taller swimmers with longer arms are able to achieve better leverage, hence more acceleration, in the water.[citation needed] And also, water resistance goes down with increasing height (see Froude number).

This is especially true for freestyle. An example of a tall swimmer is Michael Phelps, at 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) who won eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games. The average height of the eight finalists in the 100 meter Freestyle final at the US Olympic Trials was 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m). Another exceptionally tall swimmer is Michael Groß, a German great of the 1980s who is 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) with an arm span of 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m). Notable exceptions for shorter swimmers, are Japanese Kosuke Kitajima, who at 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in) is much shorter, and with a more slender build, than a typical Olympic champion swimmer, has achieved astounding results in breaststroke, and Ricardo Prado, a Brazilian medley swimmer of 1980's, who at 1.58 m (5 ft 2 in) held a world record and a world title for 400 metres medley for a number of years.


In taekwondo, a taller height gives the advantage of having a longer range and increased chance to strike a target when sparring. However due to the length of the kicks, combinations and reflexes will not be as quick when compared with a fighter standing at a shorter height. A shorter height will also increase a lower centre of gravity giving a fighter better balance.


Height can be advantageous to a tennis player as it allows players to create more power when serving[citation needed], and it gives tall players a greater arm span, allowing them to get to sharp-angled shots more easily. However, being tall can have some disadvantages, like the difficulty of bending down to reach low volleys or hitting the ball close to the torso/body.[citation needed]

Examples of tall players are 2.08 m (6 ft 10 in) Ivo Karlović, 2.06 m (6 ft 9 in) John Isner, 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) Juan Martín del Potro, 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) Marin Čilić, and 1.96 m (6 ft 5 in) Mario Ančić, all known for their powerful serves. However, Roger Federer 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in), Rafael Nadal 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in), Novak Djoković 1.87 m (6 ft 1 12 in), and Andy Murray 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in), the four top-ranked players in the world at the end of 2008, are all between 1.84 m (6 ft  12 in) and 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in) in height. Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Dinara Safina and Maria Sharapova are successful tall players on the women's side, all measuring 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) or taller. There have also have been some successful players that were of average size, like Rod Laver and Justine Henin, or shorter than average, such as Pancho Segura and Dominika Cibulková.


In weightlifting shorter levers are advantageous and taller than average competitors usually compete in the 105 kg (230 lb) + group.[citation needed]

History of human height

Average height of troops born in the mid-nineteenth century, by country or place.

Country Height
Australia 1.72 m (5 ft 7 34 in)[103]
England 1.72 m (5 ft 7 34 in)
U.S. 1.71 m (5 ft 7 14 in)
Norway 1.69 m (5 ft 6 12 in)
Ireland 1.68 m (5 ft 6 14 in)
Scotland 1.68 m (5 ft 6 14 in)
Sweden 1.68 m (5 ft 6 14 in)
Bohemia 1.67 m (5 ft 5 34 in)
Lower Austria 1.67 m (5 ft 5 34 in)
Moravia 1.66 m (5 ft 5 14 in)
France 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in)
Wales 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in)
Germany 1.64 m (5 ft 4 12 in)
Netherlands 1.64 m (5 ft 4 12 in)
Spain 1.62 m (5 ft 3 34 in)
Italy 1.61 m (5 ft 3 12 in)


In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Europeans in North America were far taller than those in Europe and were the tallest in the world.[104] The original indigenous population of Plains Native Americans was also among the tallest populations of the world at the time.[105] Several nations, including many nations in Europe, have now surpassed the US, particularly the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian nations.

In the late nineteenth century, the Netherlands was a land renowned for its short population, but today it has the second tallest average in the world, with young men averaging 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in) tall and in Europe are only shorter than the peoples of the Dinaric Alps (a section largely within the former Yugoslavia), where males average 1.856 m (6 ft 1 in) tall. The Dinarians and the Dutch are now well known in Europe for extreme tallness. In Africa, the Maasai, Dinka and Tutsi populations have been noted for their height. However, the popular belief that Dinka "often" reach more than seven feet finds no support in scientific literature. An anthropometric survey of Dinka men published in 1995 found a mean height of 1.764 m (5 ft 9 12 in) in the Ethiopian Medical Journal. [1]

Colonial populations present an interesting case in the evolution of human height. Though the European population in South Africa is principally descended from Dutch and British settlers of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries (at a period when both England and Holland reported average male heights of under 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m)), the present European descended population has shown a similar increase in height as have the nations from which they are descended. A 1998 survey recorded an average height of 1.77 m (5 ft 9 12 in) for European descended South African males, and 1.64 m (5 ft 4 12 in) for European descended South African females.[58] Australians likewise are taller than their ancestors, averaging over 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in), and women 1.639 m (5 ft 4 12 in) in a survey conducted in 1995.[4] By comparison, a British survey from a similar period averages the male population height at 1.744 m (5 ft 8 12 in), and the female population at 1.61 m (5 ft 3 12 in).[69] This means that despite many Australians and European descended South Africans having descended from British people, their current average height is over an inch greater than the present UK average (approximately 0.4 Standard Deviations).

Average male height in impoverished Vietnam and North Korea[106] remains comparatively small at 1.63 m (5 ft 4 in) and 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in), respectively. Currently, young adult North Korean males are actually significantly shorter. This contrasts greatly with the extreme growth occurring in surrounding Asian populations with correlated increasing standards of living. Young South Koreans are about 12 cm (4.7 in) taller than their North Korean counterparts, on average. There is also an extreme difference between older North Koreans and young North Koreans who grew up during the famines of the 1990s–2000s. North Korean and South Korean adults older than 40, who were raised when the North and South's economies were about equal, are generally of the same average height.

In the early 1970s, when anthropologist Barry Bogin first visited Guatemala, he observed that Mayan Indian men averaged only 1.575 m (5 ft 2 in) in height and the women averaged 1.422 m (4 ft 8 in). Bogin took another series of measurements after the Guatemalan Civil War had erupted, during which up to a million Guatemalans had fled to the United States. He discovered that Mayan refugees, who ranged from six to twelve years old, were significantly taller than their Guatemalan counterparts. By 2000, the American Maya were 10.24 cm (4.03 in) taller than the Guatemalan Maya of the same age, largely due to better nutrition and access to health care. Bogin also noted that American Maya children had a significantly lower sitting height ratio, (i.e., relatively longer legs, averaging 7.02 cm (2.76 in) longer) than the Guatemalan Maya.[107][108]

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