World’s Tallest People Study: Taller People Have Higher Life Expectancy, Income, And Cancer Risk?

Glenn Hadley

Where on Earth are the world’s tallest people?

A major study conducted by the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration consisted of examining a century’s worth of trends in the heights of adult humans from around the world.

According to the study, Latvian women and Dutch men are the world’s tallest people.

“Men born in 1996 surpass average heights of 181 cm in the Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia, Latvia and Denmark, with Dutch men, at 182.5 cm (nearly 6 feet), the tallest people on the planet… The tallest women live in Latvia, the Netherlands, Estonia and Czech Republic, with average height surpassing 168 cm (nearly 5’6″), creating a 20 cm global gap in women’s height.”

According to the study, Australia was the only non-European country that had men (born in 1996) listed as the world’s 25 tallest people.

At the other end of the height spectrum, the study concluded that men from East Timor were the shortest in the world (as of 2014) with an average height of 160 cm (nearly 5’3″). Based on data from the same year, the study showed that women from Guatemala were the shortest with an average height of 149 cm (nearly 4’10”).

However, the research and statistics considered for this study — which was conducted by a team of scientists at Imperial College London — went far and beyond locating the world’s tallest people. As mentioned, the team examined a century of trends in reference to human height and drew quite a few significant conclusions based on their results.

Based on the study, you don’t necessarily need to be one of the world’s tallest people to enjoy certain advantages related to your height.

“Being taller is associated with enhanced longevity, lower risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases… There is also evidence that taller people on average have higher education, earnings and possibly even social position.”

The study results also showed a dark side of being tall that should not be overlooked: a higher risk of being diagnosed with certain cancers. Even though tall height for adults may lower the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, according to the study it is also “harmfully associated” with such possible diseases as colorectal, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, and breast cancer.

Nourishment and undernourishment were key factors in the research study as well. According to the report, children and adolescents that were malnourished or suffered from serious illnesses were generally shorter as adults. Over the years, many people have believed that a person’s height is directly connected to genetics and what was passed down as a hereditary trait.

Knowing that the quality of nourishment may play a key role in the average person’s height raises global awareness for important issues being faced today.

“There is a need to better understand why height has changed in different countries by different amounts, and use this information to improve nutrition and health across the world. It would also be valuable to understand how much becoming taller has been responsible for improved health and longevity throughout the world.”

This study on the world’s tallest people and trends in adult human heights was conducted by a massive research team that reportedly consisted of 800 people. The Globe and Mail reports that the research team worked alongside the World Health Organization and used data from a wide variety of sources, including epidemiological studies, nutrition and health population surveys, and even military conscription figures.

The research team was able to generate data and height information on 18-year-old adults from 1914 as well as 2014.

In addition to identifying where the world’s tallest people (and shortest people) originate on average, the study clearly shed light on more important issues and concerns as well. Majid Ezzati, a professor of public health with the Imperial College London, stated that the study gives “a picture of the health of nations” but it also highlighted the need “to address children and adolescents’ environment and nutrition on a global scale.”

[Image via Shutterstock]