Maybe you’re “the tall friend.” Maybe you’re the “fun-sized” shortie. But how tall would you be if you’d been born in a different time?
Strange as it sounds, the average height for women has changed over the years. What’s considered “normal” in each time and place depends on genetics, hormones, nutrition, and more.
So, what *is* the average height for women?
As of 2016, the average height for American women (aged 20+) is 5 feet, 4 inches tall.
Height isn’t the only thing that’s changed over time. So has the standard American woman’s body shape and size.
In the 1960s, the average American woman was 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighed about 140 pounds. Now she’s about an inch taller and 28 pounds heavier.
A 2016 survey also revealed that Americans’ average height is rising more slowly than that of folks in other high-income countries.
Why the declining height rate?
So, what’s the deal with the United States’ slower height rate? Researchers behind the 2016 survey suggested two reasons:
- worsening nutrition in the United States
- more U.S. immigrants from countries with a shorter average height
The website World Data describes the average height of international women ages 18 to 40. Here’s how women’s average height stacks up around the world:
- Most of Europe: 5 feet, 6 inches
- U.S. and Canada: 5 feet, 4 inches
- Mexico: just under 5 feet, 2 inches
- China and other parts of east Asia: 5 feet
- South Asia (also Guatemala!): under 5 feet
There are at least six things that influenced how tall you are today.
1. It’s all in the genes
Your genetic makeup accounts for 60 to 80 percent of your height.
Basically, when two short people get it on, they’ll probably birth another shortie (no shade, all love!). Same goes for tall parents.
Genetic conditions also affect height and development. For instance, Turner syndrome, a chromosomal disorder that only affects women, leads to below-average height.
2. Location, location
Where’d you grow up? Location affects your height because it influences whether you have access to certain resources and nutrients.
- clean water
- general sanitation
- available food, aka nutrition
- local climate
- access to childhood vaccinations
- availability of quality healthcare when your mama was pregnant
- availability of good healthcare when you were a kid
3. Hormones and height
Human growth hormone (HGH) plays a key role in your height. No matter where you live, you need HGH to grow and develop normally.
Research suggests that HGH supplements can help abnormally small or short children get closer to an average height.
4. Nutrition matters
Good nutrition during childhood is critical to reaching your full height. A diet loaded with essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and protein help kids grow!
P.S. That old rumor about coffee stunting your growth? Probably nothing to worry about.
5. Sleep = growth
Sleep helps your body thrive. It also encourage growth hormones. To stay on track for normal development, kids need about 8 to 10 hours of Zzz’s each night.
6. Family environment
Research suggests that a positive, caring home is critical for normal growth during pre-adolescent years — particularly for girls.
The truth us, childhood trauma affects kids mentally, emotionally, and physically. Children who don’t live in a nurturing environment are more likely to encounter illness, which can affect growth.
Fact: Men are usually taller than women by about 6 inches.
Researchers trace this difference to genetic variants on X chromosomes. Folks who are assigned female at birth (AFAB) usually have two X chromosomes, so they’re more prone to these “short height” variations.
BTW, those X chromosomes and their variants? That explains most differences between the sexes (not just height). #TheMoreYouKnow
Are the ladies getting taller?
Yep! On average, American women are about 1 inch taller today than they would have been in the 1960s.
Women in other parts of the world — most notably, South Korea — are getting taller at an even faster rate.
Height isn’t everything, and it’s certainly not the best indicator of health. The body mass index (BMI) offers a somewhat helpful picture of health based on your weight *and* health combined.
For reference, the average American woman’s BMI was 29.6 in 2016. Back in 1999, the average BMI was 28.2.
If you’re an adult, you can calculate your BMI by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by your height (in meters) squared.
Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says about your health status based on your BMI.
|BMI||Status (according to the CDC)|
|less than 18.5||underweight|
|18.5–24.9||normal or healthy weight|
|30.0 and up||obese|
Just remember that BMI is fine place to start, but it’s not perfect. If you’re a female athlete, for instance, you might weigh more due to muscle mass. That can skew BMI.
If your weight or BMI worries you, have a chat with your doctor about your health goals.
- Women’s average height has changed over the years.
- Average heights also vary by country.
- In the U.S., the average woman stands around 5 feet, 4 inches tall.
- Genetics, hormones, birthplace, and more can influence how tall you are as an adult.
- Whether you land on the Snooki or T Swift end of the height spectrum, remember this: There’s more to health and happiness than how tall you are.