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How we establish average height

The study of measurement of the human body, such as weight, standing height, and skinfold thickness, is called anthropometry. Anthropo comes from the Greek word meaning “human.” Metry comes from the word “metron,” which means “measure.”

Scientists use these measurements for nutrition assessment and to come up with averages and trends in human growth. 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 up are the numbers illustrating the average height for men.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average age-adjusted height for American men 20 years old and up is 69.1 inches (175.4 centimeters). That’s about 5 feet 9 inches tall.

This number comes from data published in December 2018. The data was collected between 1999 and 2016 as part of a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The analytic sample included 47,233 men and women, all at least 20 years of age. Participants reported their ages, races, and whether they were of Hispanic origin. The average height of 5 feet 9 inches takes all groups into account.

How does that measurement compare to other countries? Let’s take a look.

As you can imagine, the range of average heights across the world is quite broad.

A 2016 study showed that Iranian men have seen the biggest change in height over the last century, gaining about 6.7 inches (17 centimeters).

The researchers are a part of a global group of health scientists known as the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. They explained that both biological factors (such as genetic predisposition) and socioeconomic factors (such as access to quality foods) can affect the range in heights.

Average heights for men in 15 countries

The table below includes 2016 data from the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. It shows average heights for men born between 1918 and 1996, and it’s based on an analysis of hundreds of population-based studies.

CountryAverage Height
The Netherlands5 ft 11.9 in (182.5 cm)
Germany5 ft 10.8 in (179.9 cm)
Australia5 ft 10.6 in (179.2 cm)
Canada5 ft 10.1 in (178.1 cm)
United Kingdom5 ft 9.9 in (177.5 cm)
Jamaica5 ft 8.7 in (174.5 cm)
Brazil5 ft 8.3 in (173.6 cm)
Iran5 ft 8.3 in (173.6 cm)
China5 ft 7.6 in (171.8 cm)
Japan5 ft 7.2 in (170.8 cm)
Mexico5 ft 6.5 in (169 cm)
Nigeria5 ft 5.3 in (165.9 cm)
Peru5 ft 5 in (165.2 cm)
India5 ft 4.9 in (164.9 cm)
The Philippines5 ft 4.25 in (163.2 cm)

There are no international standards with regard to measuring and reporting height.

Some discrepancies may be attributed to self-reporting versus controlled measuring or to the ages of individuals who are recorded. Discrepancies may also be the result of:

  • the percentage of the population measured
  • the year the measurements were taken
  • data being averaged over time

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.

Measuring your height with a partner

  1. Move to a room with hard flooring (no carpet) and a wall that’s clear of 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 prevent your head from resting flat against a wall.
  3. Stand with your feet together and your 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 taking any measurements, 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, making sure their eyes are at the same level of the measurement tool, carefully marking where it meets the wall.
  8. Use a tape measure to determine your height from the floor to the mark.
  9. Record your height to the nearest 1/8th inch or 0.1 centimeter.

Shop for a tape measure.

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. Consider purchasing an inexpensive wall-mounted meter specifically for height, or follow the steps below:

  1. Again, stand on a flat surface with a clear wall that doesn’t prevent 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.
  4. Use a tape measure to determine your height from the floor to the mark.
  5. Record your height to the nearest 1/8th inch or 0.1 centimeter.

Shop for a tape measure or a wall-mounted height meter.

At the doctor’s office

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

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

The tallest man to ever walk the earth was Robert Pershing Wadlow from Alton, Illinois. He stood at a whopping 8 feet 11.1 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 2.8 inches and 2 feet 2.41 inches, respectively.

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

Countless factors affect height, including age, nutrition, and health conditions. Averages can help statisticians observe health and growth trends, but they shouldn’t serve as a measure of self-worth.