22 July 2007

Tallest People in the World

While I was browsing the latest issue (July 30) of TIME magazine yesterday, I saw this interesting page which featured the new list of tallest people in the world:

TIME, being an American magazine, (as well as the rest of related online sources I found) lamented the fact that Americans no longer stand the tallest as before. These days, the height contest is mightily ruled by the Europeans --- the Dutch in particular, who stand at an average height of 182.9 centimeters, or 6 feet and 2 inches. The Norwegians and the Germans lag slightly behind by having the average height of 5 feet and 11 inches, or an inch shy of a 6-footer. The once proud Americans now have an average height of 5 feet and 10 inches.

How about us Filipinos? In the race for height, we are one of the shortest among the tallest by having an average height of 5 feet and 4 inches.

What's the fuss about height and being tall? Should there be any concern at all?

How tall one grows is determined by his genes and the environment he grew up in. More emphasis is given on the environment, and in this case, the countries we live in. The common logic employed is that the richer the country is, the better it can provide nutrition to its young, and therefore, hope they can become "taller people" in the future.

Various research studies have suggested that on average, taller people are "healthier, wealthier, live longer, and may even be more intelligent than shorter people." Short people will surely criticize the statement of course, but when all is said and done, their cases will prove to be more of the exception than the prevailing observed trend.

Why then are the Dutch the tallest people nowadays?

Komlos and Lauderdale in their current and noteworthy paper on the subject said:
It is by no means obvious what combination of factors has led the Dutch to be taller than the population of the surrounding countries with similar extensive social safety nets. In addition to an excellent medical system and many social services, the Dutch anthropometric advantage also might be based on the lower labor force participation rates of females, which has enabled mothers to provide a more propitious environment for newborns than those prevailing in day-care centers.

In addition, starting with the beginning of the 20th century the expanding welfare state supported
Dutch mothers from all social classes to participate in a public health monitoring system. The so-called consultatiebureaus played a key role, especially after World War II. Mothers could obtain advice about infant-feeding, child nutrition and hygiene from a paediatrician; assessment of the health status of the children was part of the routine (de Beer, 2004). The extensive character of this system is unique in the Netherlands.

A more caring government which knows how to spend its rich resources can therefore hope to see its young people grow taller and taller. Alas, here in the Philippines, we seem to have a deficiency of both (resources and political will), and with an expanding population growth, I think it will take longer before we can become six-footers.

5 reactions:

sparks said...

i love this post doc. it managed to be health-related, political and socio-economic all at the same time!

ipanema said...

So it's more socio-economic and environment. Being the happiest people on earth, the Dutch seems to be having everything in the world isn't it? Unfair. :)

The Filipinos getting taller? Our dear, beloved Mdm President comes from an affluent family, I can't think of another reason why the height? She is lovely, I met her already. :)

Anonymous said...

weird, because I always thought that the tallest were the dinaric alps people from norhtern albania, montengro, bosnia, croatia.

Unknown said...

182.9cm = 6 feet tall, not 6' 2".

Anonymous said...

I am Dutch and unfortunately after years of analyzis I cannot state that the level of the Dutch Health system is so high and performing as it is said here.
Todays Dutch social mentality (and life) is more a kind of socialism but not the one which was present in the former Soviet Union. Is a system where you pay till 52% in taxes from your personal income and then if you work more and longer you are punished and then the average Dutch never work really hard and preferes "not to do" than to do.
It is logic than is such socialism the people never has hurry and then they just keep doing at the level of speed they find confortable for themselves and this is crusial factor of the health of a nation.
But the hard workers are paying a really high price for such "health system".