Average Height for Women

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Average Height for Women


Average Height For Women in the US versus the World

Have you ever pondered over your height? Most of us spend more time thinking of our weight, but I’m sure if you’re shorter or taller than most other women, you have probably also thought of your height as well. Height might not be something we have as much control over when compared to weight but let’s have a closer look.

 

This article will discuss the average height for women in the US, how it has changed over time, why it’s relevant, what influences it, AND how it compares to the average height of women across the globe.

What is the average height for women in the US?

The average height for women in the US is 5 feet 3.75 inches. This is slightly different among different racial or ethnic groups and is illustrated below;

 

Different races or ethnicities:

Average height in 2016

African Americans

5 feet 4 inches

Asian American

5 feet 1.5 inches

White non-Hispanic

5 feet 4.3 inches

Hispanic American

5 feet 1.7 inches

Mexican American

5 feet 1.5 inches

 

The average height for women in the US is also illustrated according to different age-groups below;

 

Age Groups:

Average height in 2016

20 - 39 years

5 feet 4 inches

40 - 59 years

5 feet 3.2 inches

60 and over

5 feet 2.7 inches

 

Has average height for women changed over the years?

The average height of women in the US between 2000 and 2016 is illustrated in the tables below according to ethnicity and age-groups;

 

Different races or ethnicities:

Average height in 2000

Average height in 2016

African Americans

5 feet 4.2 inches

5 feet 4 inches

Asian American

5 feet 1.9 inches (2012)

5 feet 1.5 inches

White non-Hispanic

5 feet 4.2 inches

5 feet 4.3 inches

Hispanic American

5 feet 1.7 inches (2008)

5 feet 1.7 inches

Mexican American

5 feet 1.7 inches

5 feet 1.5 inches

 

 

Age Groups:

Average height in 2000

Average height in 2016

20 - 39

5 feet 4.3 inches

5 feet 4 inches

40 - 59

5 feet 4.1 inches

5 feet 3.2 inches

60 and over

5 feet 2.6 inches

5 feet 2.7 inches

 

Do you see a trend here?

Well, we didn’t really get any taller… In fact, some groups actually got slightly shorter. But what does it mean and does it really matter? Let’s look at how it compares to the change in our weight.

The change in Height vs Weight

As you can see, the average American woman's height has plateaued or in some cases even decreased slightly between 2000 and 2016. However, when we compare this to the average weight gain during the same period of time, the average woman has gained a whopping 6.8 pounds, going from 163.8 lb to 170.6 lb.

Increased height can therefore not be considered as a reason for weight gain during this period.

 

The average height of women in the US vs the world

Globally the average height has increased significantly between 1896 and 1960 and thereafter started to plateau. In 1914, US women ranked 4th in the world with regards to average height, while in 2016 US women ranked 42nd, and European countries started to overtake the US in recent years.

 

Countries with the tallest women include Netherland and Latvia with an average height of 5 feet 7 inches. While countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Poland, Switzerland, and the United States have an average height of 5 feet 4 inches. Countries with the shortest women include Indonesia, Nepal, Timor-Leste, and Laos averaging at 4 feet 11 inches.

 

A survey conducted in 2016 predicts that the plateau observed in average height, among American women, might be due to immigration trends or worsening nutrition.

 

What influences female height? 

Height Influencer # 1: Genetics 

Most of us know genetics has a massive impact on our height. If both your parents are quite short, you’re probably also shorter than most others in your age group. But how big of an impact does genetics really have?

 

Well, according to experts, 80% of your height is determined by your DNA! Scientists say more than 700 gene variations stimulate or inhibit the growth plates in the long bones among children during their growing years. So yes, we don’t have a lot of control over our height.

 

Height Influencer # 2: Gender

Men are generally about 7% taller than women. This may be because men tend to have a rapid and longer period of growth. Women generally grow taller during 10 and 14 years of age and reach their adult height by 15 years of age. While men, generally grow between 12 and 15 years and reach the adult height by 18 years of age. In recent years, however, it’s been observed that some men even continue to grow in their 20s.

 

Research indicates that sex chromosomes also play a large role in the difference, as it controls the timing and duration of growth spurs. As we mentioned above, men tend to grow more rapidly and for longer durations when compared to women.

 

However, gender doesn’t play such a massive role as genetics, and I’m sure you’ve seen many women that are much taller than men and there’s absolutely no shame in that.

 

Height Influencer #3: Nutrition

Even though your genetics plays the largest role in your height, nutrition is often overlooked. Poor nutrition leads to limited nutrition on a cellular level and may lead to growth retardation. Nutrition starts as early as when you are in your mother’s womb.

 

Insufficient nutrition during pregnancy is related to premature birth and low birth weight, and this is normally observed in low - and middle-income countries. Studies have however determined that these growth retardations are reduced when micronutrient-supplements such as iodine, iron, folate, and calcium are provided to pregnant-women in poverty-stricken regions. Following birth, nutrients such as protein, vitamin A and D are essential for optimal linear growth.

 

Malnutrition does however not only affect physical development such as height, but also cognitive development, immune system functioning, cardiovascular functioning, and brain health.

 

Height Influencer # 4: Hormones 

Insulin is an essential hormone responsible for growth while you are in your mother’s womb and thereafter thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). This is why hypothyroidism has been observed to completely stun some children’s growth.

 

Sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, also have a massive impact on growth and development. I’m sure you’ve seen or even experienced this before, but linear growth spurts often only occur once or just after you hit puberty. Some late-developers will only start growing much later in their adolescent years, once they hit puberty.

 

Another important hormone is the Human Growth Hormone (HGH or GH), produced by the pituitary gland. The GH slowly increases during childhood and peaks during puberty. It stimulates the liver to produce insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which also impacts the growth of your long bones and development.

 

Height Influencer # 5: Sleep 

 Have you ever noticed how much babies sleep, especially when they are going through a growth period?

 

That is because sleep helps us grow. Sleep stimulates the release of the growth hormone, essential for cellular repair and the growth of bones and muscle mass. Sleep also enhances the release of sex hormones during puberty, which is responsible for the massive growth spurts observed during puberty.

 

Insufficient sleep will interrupt the natural hormone cycle, reduce the release of growth hormones and therefore impact growth.

 

Height Influencer # 6: Geographical location & socioeconomic status

Access to clean water, proper nutrition, sanitation, healthcare, and vaccinations has a large impact on our health, growth, and development.

 

Water, nutrition, sanitation, and healthcare are unfortunately all factors dependent on where you live, your income, status or class, and the level of your education.

 

Research also suggests that climate may be related to height as data shows that people living in colder climates are generally taller than those living in warmer climates. This is, however, extremely difficult to accurately confirm as humans have gained more and more control of our environments in the past 200 years and therefore weakened the impact nature has on our development and specifically our height.

 

Why have American females stopped growing taller?

 

The agriculture-era during the 1800s and early 1900s provided sufficient nutrition for the majority of Americans and may explain the ‘growing’ period of Americans during that time. But why did we hit a plateau and stop growing taller?

 

Well, there are two sides to this... Some scientists believe we are reaching our genetic and physical limit, while others believe it is related to the rise in processed - and fast foods and worsening nutrition in the late 1900s and early 2000s. Most of us have access to more than enough food but our choices may affect our growth and health, especially during childhood and puberty.

How to measure your height correctly

  • Stand bare feet with your heels touching the area where the wall and the floor meets.
  • Your buttocks, shoulders, and head should be touching the wall.
  • Make sure you stand up straight, with your eye-line straight ahead.
  • Ask someone to use a ruler to rest on top of your head at 90 degrees to the wall.
  • Mark the spot where the ruler meets the wall with a pencil.
  • Lastly, use a tape measure to measure the distance from the floor to the marking (make sure the tape measure remains straight).

 

Things to remember before measuring your height:

Remove baggy clothes, headbands, hats, etc.

 

Final Thoughts: 

The average weight of women in the US is increasing much faster than height, and this is definitely something we need to acknowledge and address.

 

The average American woman is 5 feet 4 inches and this has been the case for the past few decades, however, during the same period of time, we have gained at least 6.8 pounds.

 

Many factors influence height and weight such as access to food, genetics, socioeconomic status, and other environmental factors. But because height is 80% dependent on our genetics, we might not be able to change a whole lot with regards to our height, but we definitely have a lot more control over our weight. Maybe it’s time to address these issues by evaluating and adapting our lifestyle habits...