Facts You Should Know About the Average Heights for Women Worldwide
Measures of the human body, including height, give doctors clues about your health. The average height of a large population over time shows researchers trends they can use to learn about the health and quality of life in a particular region.
There’s even a scientific term for the measurement of the human body -- anthropometry. It’s the study of things like height, weight, body mass index (BMI), and skinfold thickness (the measurement of fat).
Researchers learn about trends in height by interviewing and examining tens of thousands of people. Then they use the information to track overall human development and health, including physical fitness and risk for disease.
Here’s information to help you understand the importance of such data and how it’s obtained. Let’s start by asking where do U.S. women stand among their international peers?
How Tall Are U.S. Women?
The average height for women in the U.S. hasn't changed much over the past 20 years. As of 2016, the average American woman was about 5 feet 3 inches (63.6 inches) tall.
Average heights of U.S. women vary some by race or ethnicity:
- White non-Hispanic: 5 feet 4.3 inches
- African American: 5 feet 4 inches
- Hispanic American: 5 feet 1.7 inches
- Asian American: 5 feet 1.5 inches
What Determines Height?
Genes, or your DNA, play a big part in how tall you are. Scientists estimate that your DNA is 80% responsible for your height. Recent research has found nearly 700 ways that genes influence how tall you'll be.
Your life circumstances, though, also play a role. Poor nutrition and illness in childhood, which experts link to living standards, can stunt growth. That's why the average height of the population of a certain country can say a lot about the quality of life there.
Heights Around the World
Globally, trends in height over the past 100 years suggest social and environmental changes over time. For example, height increases might reflect changes in diet and less illness. Women in South Korea have seen the most gains in height, growing by an average of almost eight inches. Women in the Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu, on the other hand, grew the least -- less than an inch.
The shortest and tallest women in the world differ in height by about eight inches. On average, women in Guatemala are the shortest at just under 4 feet 10 inches. Latvian women are the tallest at around 5 feet 6.5 inches.
Here’s a look at some other countries around the world:
|Country||Average Height for Women|
|Netherlands||5 ft. 5.5 in. (168.7 cm)|
|Barbados||5 ft. 4.2 in (165.5 cm)|
|United States||5 ft. 3 in. (161.5 cm)|
|China||5 ft. 2.4 in. (159.8 cm)|
|Iran||5 ft. 2.3 in. (159.7 cm)|
|Nigeria||5 ft. 1.3 in. (156.4 cm)|
|Guatemala||4 ft. 8.8 in. (149 cm)|
Height also varies by region. European and Central Asian (think, Iran and Uzbekistan) women are among the tallest in the world. Women from South Asian countries, including Nepal and Bangladesh, are among the shortest.
How to Measure Height
Want to know where you stand? You can measure your own height. It’s easier to do that with someone else’s help. Taking the following steps will help ensure you measure precisely:
- Remove your shoes and any hair accessories.
- Stand on a hard floor, not a carpet or rug.
- Place your feet flat on the floor with your heels against the wall. (If possible, choose a wall that doesn’t have molding along the floor.)
- Level your shoulders. Let your arms hang straight down at your sides.
- Press the back of your head, your shoulders, and rear end against the wall. Some parts of your body may not touch, and that’s OK.
- Look straight ahead. Your line of sight should be parallel with the floor.
- Lower a book, ruler, or other straight, flat object down until it firmly touches the crown of your head.
- Mark the wall under the flat object.
- Measure the distance from the floor to the mark to the nearest 1/8 inch or 0.1 centimeter.
During a physical or checkup, your doctor may use a professional medical tool called a stadiometer (a portable or wall-mounted measuring board) for a more accurate measurement of height.
CDC: "Measuring Children's Height and Weight Accurately At Home."
National Health Statistics Reports: "Mean Body Weight, Height, Waist Circumference, and Body Mass Index Among Adults: United States, 1999–2000 Through 2015–2016."
Our World in Data: "Human Height."
eLife: "A century of trends in adult human height."
U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Is height determined by genetics?"
Indian Health Service: "Selecting and Using Equipment."
NCD-RisC: "Ranking for people born from 1896 to 1996."
StatPearls Publishing: "Anthropometric Measurement."