How do we know what the average height is?

The study of measurement of the human body — for example, weight, standing height, and skinfold — is called anthropometry. Anthropo comes from the Greek term meaning “human” and metry comes from the term “metron” meaning “measure.”

Scientists use these measurements to come up with averages and trends in human growth and nutrition assessment. Designers can even use anthropometric data to create more ergonomic spaces, furniture, and assistive devices.

The data is also used in national growth charts and to help track changes to disease risk or body composition that might be expected over a person’s lifespan.

That’s why we know what we do about height. Next are the numbers of the average height for men.

Average height for men in the United States

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average height for an adult male over age 20 in the United States is 69.2 inches (175.7 centimeters) or about 5 feet, 9 inches tall.

This number comes from data published in August 2016. The data was collected between 2011 and 2014 as part of a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The analytic sample for this report was made up of some 19,151 people (men and women) and broken down into age groups, starting from 20 years old. Race and Hispanic origin were other reported categories. The average height of 5 feet, 9 inches takes into account all groups.

So, how does that measurement compare to other countries? Let’s take a look.

Average height for men internationally

As you can imagine, the range of average heights across the world is quite broad. Research shows that Iranian men have seen the biggest change in height over the last century, gaining about 7 inches (17 centimeters).

But there are many different heights for men ages 18 and above on all ends of the spectrum.

Average heights for men in 9 countries

The chart below reflects recorded heights of men in each country who are age 18 and up or age 20 and up. Numbers for India, Japan, and Mexico represent a group of men in each country from 20 to 49 years old.

CountryAverage Height in Standard (and Metric) Units
Australia5 ft 9 in (175.6 cm)
Brazil5 ft 9 in (175.7 cm)
Canada5 ft 8.75 in (174.6 cm)
Germany5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
India5 ft 5 in (165 cm)
Japan5 ft 7.75 in (172 cm)
Mexico5 ft 5.75 in (167 cm)
Netherlands5 ft 11.25 in (180.8 cm)
Peru5 ft 5 in (165 cm)
 

Researchers explain that factors that contribute to height range from the biological, like genetic predisposition, to socioeconomic, like access to quality foods.

Also, there aren’t international standards with regard to measuring and reporting height.

Some discrepancies may be attributed to self-reporting versus controlled measuring, the ages of individuals who are recorded, or other factors, like percentage of the population measured, the year measurements were taken, and data averaged over time.

Accurately measuring your height

It may be tricky to measure your height at home without some help. If you’d like to see where you stand, consider asking a friend or family member to help you follow these steps.

  1. Move to a room with hard flooring (no carpet) and a wall that’s clear from art or other obstructions.
  2. Remove your shoes and any clothing or accessories that might skew your results. Take out any ponytails or braids that might inhibit your head from resting flat against a wall.
  3. Stand with your feet together, heels against the wall. Straighten your arms and legs. Your shoulders should be level. You may ask your partner to confirm that you’re in proper form.
  4. Look straight ahead and fix your gaze so that your line of sight is parallel with the floor.
  5. Make sure your head, shoulders, butt, and heels are all touching the wall. Due to body shape, not all parts of your body may touch, but try your best. Before measurement, you should also inhale deeply and stand erect.
  6. Have your partner mark your height by using a flat headpiece, such as a wall-mounted ruler or other straight object, like a book. The tool should be lowered until it touches the crown of your head with firm contact.
  7. Your partner should mark only once their eyes are at the same level of the measurement tool, marking where it meets the wall.
  8. Use a tape measure to get your height from the floor to the mark or consider purchasing an inexpensive wall-mounted measuring tape specifically for stature.
  9. Record your height to the nearest 1/8th inch or 0.1 centimeter.

Measuring your height by yourself

If you don’t have another person to help you, you may still be able to measure your height at home.

  1. Again, stand on a flat surface with a clear wall that doesn’t obstruct your body from making full contact.
  2. Then stand tall with your shoulders flat against the wall and slide a flat object, like a book or cutting board, along the wall until you can bring it down to make firm contact with the top of your head.
  3. Mark under the object where it lands and use a tape measure to record to the nearest 1/8th inch or 0.1 centimeter.

You may get a relatively accurate measure at home, especially if you have help and follow all procedures. However, it may be a good idea to get height measurement at your doctor’s office as part of a routine physical.

The equipment at your doctor’s office may be better calibrated and your provider better trained at gathering the most precise measurement.

From tallest to shortest

The tallest man to ever walk the earth was Robert Pershing Wadlow from Alton, Illinois. He stood at a whopping 8 feet, 11 inches tall. The shortest? Chandra Bahadur Dangi of Rhimkholi, Nepal. He was just 21.5 inches tall at a measurement in 2012, the last before his death in 2015.

Currently, the tallest and shortest living males are 8 feet, 3 inches and 2 feet, 2.5 inches, respectively.

Measuring up

There are certainly averages and trends with regard to height in the United States and worldwide. But it’s important to remember humans come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Plus, there are countless factors involved with regard to height, including age, nutrition, and health conditions. Averages can certainly help statisticians observe health and growth trends, but they should by no means serve as a measure of self-worth.