Wednesday, December 8

What’s causing the world’s tallest Dutch to shrink


For decades, the Netherlands has boasted of having the highest population in the world.

Since 1958, the Dutch have risen above the villages of other countries, according to data from the Netherlands Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

However, recent research indicates that the last generation has lost stature, compared to the previous one, by an average of 1 cm for men and 1.4 cm for women.

Although various causes for this shrinkage have been proposed, there is no single reason that will satisfy the experts.

A century growing

The trend toward taller stature began about a century ago, according to CBS on its website. The agency conducts health surveys every 4 years that include measurement of height.

In 2020, 19-year-old Dutch men reached an average height of 182.9 cm, while women of the same age measured 169.3.

Has been a continuous and rapid progression, with an average of 8.3 cm added to the height of men born in 1980 compared to those born in 1930. Similarly, women grew 5.3 cm more in the same period.

“We drink a lot of milk in this country,” Ruben van Gaalen, CBS statistical researcher and professor of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam, told BBC News World, as one of the explanations for the height of the Dutch.

But he noted that there are several theories. “It may be the standard of living. If we look at the human development index of all countries, the Netherlands is among the first. Others, like Denmark, have a similar index and they too are high ”.

But it also pointed to a phenomenon of natural selection. On the one hand, being taller allows a person to see further.

There have also been studies on the relationship between height and income. “The taller you are, the more money you make. If you are tall, you give the impression of greater authority and perhaps people listen to you more, you acquire more social prestige ”, he explained, adding that, in general, women are attracted to men who are taller than them, so they have more choice when selecting women.

A tall woman hugs a man in front of a canal in Amsterdam
In the Netherlands it is common to see women of 1.80 or more in height. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

Factors of stagnation

Now, however, Dutch growth has stalled, according to new CBS research that obtained personally supplied measurements from 719,000 respondents between the ages of 19 and 60.

The results show that men born at the beginning of the millennium (who are now 19 years old) are on average 1 cm shorter than their peers born in the 1980s. Women are 1.4 cm shorter.

Experts have offered a number of explanations ranging from increased immigration to changes in diet and the effects of the economical crisis.

“Migration is a factor. If we are the tallest people in the world, by definition the migrants are shorter, their genetic makeup is that of shorter people, ”said the statistical official.

“But the stagnation in stature was also seen in the generations with two parents born in the Netherlands, and the same happened with the generations whose four grandparents were born in that country,” he observed.

Iraqi refugee migrants Ahmad and Alia with their baby Adam in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands
Migration is one of the factors in the stagnation of the stature of the Dutch. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

Additionally, CBS noted on its website that men with no immigration history did not get taller and women with no immigration history show a downward trend.

Another possible theory that Ruben van Gaalen mentioned is that the decrease in average height may be due to a biological limit: that the individual can no longer grow.

But what most worries experts is that it is due to a change in lifestyle and an increase in caloric intake during the growth phase of young people.

“The body mass index (BMI) in children has risen over time, in all social classes, and that can make people not grow as much as before,” said Van Gaalen, warning that if this effect is due to a less healthy lifestyle should be investigated as it is related to life expectancy.

“We no longer smoke but we have a more sedentary life and we consume more calories and gain weight. So the indirect effect of not being as high as before is more worrisome than the fact of not being as high, “he concluded.

It may interest you:

It is not only genetic: height in children also depends on their diet

Being too tall can be a big problem when buying a car – see why

Does height affect our weight loss?


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