Surge in height of average man
Published 02/09/2013 | 08:06
The average man's height has increased by more than 4.3in (10cm) in the 100 years since the middle of the 19th century, researchers have discovered.
British men who were born in the 1870s had an average height at the age of 21 of 5ft 6in (167cm), while those born in the 1970s were 5ft 10in (177cm).
Scientists studied military records and population surveys from 15 European countries between 1870 and 1980 to collate their findings, published in the journal Oxford Economic Papers.
The study only examined the height of men because there was insufficient data to compare heights of women.
It found a surge in average height in the years covering the two World Wars and the Great Depression, which experts put down to improvements in hygiene, sanitation and nutrition and improvements in medicine.
Professor Tim Hatton, from the University of Essex, who calculated the data, wrote: "I was surprised to find that increase in height was so strong over the period...
"In the mid-19th century cities were places of grime and squalor, the more so the larger and the more industrial the city."
While genes are mainly responsible for determining height, researchers said they would not have explained the trend uncovered, adding that the gene pool "cannot account for substantial increases in mean stature over four or five generations".
Infant mortality rates also fell significantly throughout the period studied, the research found.