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Men have grown 4 inches taller in a century, but has anyone told architects, designers and furniture makers?

taller menNew research from Timothy Hatton, Professor of Economics at the University of Essex, shows that the average height of European men has grown in just over a century from 5ft 4in to 5ft 8in, an increase of 4 inches.  He compared figures from the 1870s to those for 1980.  More figures are available for men because they were measured for conscription.

The growth cannot be attributed to genetic section over such a short time-frame, and is being attributed to environmental factors such as better nutrition and rising health standards.  What happens to children in their early years is a big determinant of future height, and much-reduced infant mortality rates point to fewer people having their future height reduced by serious childhood diseases.  Similarly, good nutrition in their early years enables adults to grow taller than they might otherwise have managed.

I wonder if anyone has told architects to build houses with doorways larger than they were made a century ago?  I wonder similarly if chair manufacturers are placing their seats rather higher off the ground to allow for the extended legs that now sit down at them? Althought, Southern Motion furniture and the like, for example, match any requirement. Many people have taken increased width into account, but what about height?  I know that some car-makers have redesigned their seats to allow for the fact that many of their drivers and passengers are wider than they used to be, but I wonder if thought is being given by other designers to the implications of taller men?  It will be longer arms and legs as well as a greater overall height.  I guess it’s easier with bicycles because you just raise the seat (although you really need a larger frame), and easy with clothes because you just buy larger sizes – until you end up at High and Mighty.


4 Responses

  1. Fascinating as always, and insightful questions! Yet I wonder how much height-increase is due to better nutrition and healthcare versus hormones etc added to hasten food production affecting human height inadvertently. Born in the wealthy US “Baby Boom” circa 1954, my nutrition and health care were no worse than today, and in respect to exercise better, yet the subsequent generation of American-born is markedly taller than we. Your data explains 3rd Worlders or post-war Japanese eating more protein (etc) and growing taller, but does it explain how height increases while the cited factors remain optimally stable? Can you shed light on this, please?

    • And people were taller in the 19th Century compared to those in the 16th: must be the hormones the Elizabethans used to hasten food production.

  2. In a word: Meat.

    Especially meat from animals raised on growth hormones to make faster profits for farmers and supermarkets. I read an article some years ago about the dramatic increase in size of Japanese children after the war. Many of them had indulged in burgers and other American staples and now dwarfed their parents who as pre-war children were raised on a diet of more fish and less meat. I also remember some years ago in Singapore visiting a department store to buy some trousers. I wandered up rows and rows with 16, 18, 20 and 22 inch waists convinced I was in the children’s wear section. No, it really was menswear. High-and-mighty in the Far East means having a 24 inch waist. You are what you eat.

  3. You mean there is a heigtesity crisis! Must be all the chips, burgers, saturated fats and stuff.

    Just wait (weight?) until the health-fasciste get on the case.

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