What Is the Average Height for a Woman?

Being tall has long had advantages associated with it. There is evidence to show that it conferred an evolutionary advantage when our ancestors came down from the trees and became endurance hunters on the plains of Africa, as it helped us see farther and run faster. Cultures all around the world see having extra height on your peers as a sign of overall health and economic well-being.

Considering that being tall can net you up to $800 more per year than diminutive colleagues, it’s easy to see that this idea persists to the present day. Taller people are more likely to have a higher socio-economic status, are more likely to be paid more and promoted in the workplace, are more likely to be self-employed, and they have been shown to be more intelligent and healthier on average. There is only a minor difference in these effects on men and women.

So, what is the average height for a woman? The answer to this commonly asked question depends on where you were raised. For now, there is no verified worldwide average, mainly because of the differences in measuring standards and procedures.

We’re Bigger Than We Used to Be, but Some Are Even Bigger

Over the last 250 years, records have been kept of how tall people were in the US, Europe, and Japan. Soldiers, slaves, and convicts have all contributed to the body of data, and historical records tend to be more abundant for men than for women.

A 2016 study managed to make estimates of how the average height has changed from country to country over the past century.

The greatest gains were seen in countries that had relatively high incomes, although the gains have begun to plateau over the last few decades. Interestingly, the US was one of the first countries to stop gaining in height.

One hundred years ago, Americans were among some of the tallest people in the world, but over the intervening years, the US had the smallest increase in height of all the high-income nations. One potential cause for this is the relatively poor nutritional standards in comparison to the countries that saw the greatest gains, such as much of Europe, as well as South Korea, and Iran. Declining healthcare standards have also been suggested as a possible cause.

What’s the Average Height for a Woman?

There is no reliable way of determining a worldwide average for women’s height, as each country gathers its information in different ways, and so there isn’t a standardized measure to go by. However, a number of unconfirmed and unofficial sources place it at either 5’3” or 5’4”, though where they got this number from has never been convincingly stated.

In the US, the average height is just under 5’4”, coming to 63.7 inches, according to a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey conducted between 2011 and 2013. There is some variation depending on your racial background, with black women coming out the tallest at 64.2 inches, followed by white women at 64.1 inches, then Hispanic women at 62 inches, and finally Asian women at 61.8 inches.

Meanwhile, in Europe the average height for women is 5’6”, while in various countries in Asia, Central and South American, as well as India, the average is 5’0” or less.

While American women are certainly taller than they were 100 years ago, it’s worth noting that the increase is lesser than in any other high-income nation. At the same time, the average BMI in the US has grown significantly more than in almost any other country in this time frame.

What Determines Your Height?

There are many factors that play into how tall a person will grow. While the primary influence is your genes, quite a few lifestyle-based factors can play an important part in determining how many inches you end up racking up.

Genetics

As mentioned, your family history and genetic makeup have the greatest potential effect on height. It makes up for between 60 to 80 percent of the differences in height, depending on your racial background. So, if your parents and grandparents are short, then you will probably be short too. Genetic conditions can also play a role, causing either excessive or reduced levels of growth.

Nutrition

After your genes, what you eat plays a major role in how tall you will grow. As the old saying goes, you are what you eat. Proper nutrition during childhood encourages more growth, whereas malnutrition results in less. Ensuring your children are eating healthily, and getting all the essential nutrients and vitamins that their growing bodies need, will help them to reach their highest potential.

Location

As mentioned above, where you were born and raised can potentially play a large part in your overall height, especially in the first 12 years of a person’s life. Factors related to location include:

  • nutrition
  • access to quality healthcare, especially during childhood and pregnancy
  • clean water
  • sanitation
  • access to necessary vaccinations
  • climate

Family Environment

Research has shown clear links between adequate growth levels, and living in a supportive and nurturing environment. This has a greater effect on girls, and it is especially important during pre-adolescence. Experiencing trauma and negative experiences can directly result in less growth and more illnesses.

Hormones

Human growth hormone (HGH) is one of the driving biological determinants of height, among other factors. This is related to your genes, as well as your lifestyle. Research has suggested that children that are abnormally shorter than the average can have their height normalized by a course of HGH supplements.

Sleep

Sleep helps to increase the release of HGH, and so encourages adequate growth. Children should be getting between eight to ten hours of sleep each night in order to promote normal growth.

The Bigger They Are…

The average height has increased worldwide over the last few centuries. The average American woman is around three and a half inches taller than her pilgrim ancestors, though Americans have grown less in the last century than people from other affluent countries. What’s the average height for a woman? In the US, the average is 63.7 inches, just under 5’4”, which is around the same as the unofficial and unconfirmed worldwide average.

 

References:

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_03/sr03_039.pdf
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/body-measurements.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad347.pdf
https://elifesciences.org/articles/13410
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0030153
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1570677X15000143
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10519-014-9644-z

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