Nourishment and better living conditions have helped men grow 4 inches taller than they were 100 years ago, says a study.
According to the researchers, the average height of European men rose by 11 centimetres between 1870 and 1980. Moreover, contrary to the expectations, the study also found that average height actually accelerated in the period spanning the two World Wars and the Great Depression.
Professor Timothy Hatton of the University of Essex analyzed figures for the average height of men in their age group of 21between the period 1870’s and 1980 in 15 European countries.
The estimate, published on Monday in the Oxford Economic Papers, were derived from military, medical and other records from 15 countries.
Professor Hatton said, “Increases in human stature are a key indicator of improvements in the average health of populations. The evidence suggests that the improving disease environment, as reflected in the fall in infant mortality, is the single most important factor driving the increase in height.
“The link between infant mortality and height has already been demonstrated by a number of studies”, he added.
Infant mortality rates fell from an average of 178 per 1,000 in the period from 1871 to 1875 to 120 per 1,000 in 1911 to 1915. They then plunged to 41 in 1951 to 1955 and just 14 from 1976 to 1980.
In 1980, Dutch men were the tallest of the 15 countries studied, reaching about 183cm, while the shortest were Portuguese, about 173cm.
Other research into height gains has found that Europe far outpaced Africa, Latin America and South Asia during this time, an era characterized by industrialization, urbanization, the advent of antibiotics and expanded health systems.