Why Are Dutch People Tall: A Thorough Breakdown

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When you think of the Dutch, you might think of cheese eaters, bicycle riders, and that they’re all very tall. The first two can be traced to the culture, that’s simple. The people of the Netherlands love cheese and like to travel on two wheels. But, people often can’t answer this common question: why are Dutch people tall?

This country is home to taller individuals due to a myriad of factors. From lifestyle, health awareness, and culture to something behavioral scientists call the Dutch growth spurt. Understanding the different reasons for this interesting height phenomenon will better enable you to explain why this region of people is so inexplicably tall. 

So, if you’re wondering why Dutch people are so tall, keep reading as we explore the reasons, history, and general facts about this part of the world.

why are dutch people tall

What Is the Average Height in the World?

Human height varies so much over the world, ranging from the tallest people in Europe to the shortest people in South Asia.

As defined by the WHO growth reference standards, the average height of a healthy population is expected to be around 5 foot 3 inches (163 cm) for women and around 5 foot 8 inches (176.5 cm) for men. 

These are only expectancies because the actual global average height is lower than expected, with 5 foot 2 inches (159.5 cm) for women and 5 foot 7 inches (171 cm) for men.

Here are the average heights from around the world:

Continent MenWomen 
North America5 ft 9.7 in (177 cm)5 ft 4.6 in (164 cm)
South America5 ft 7.3 in (171 cm)5 ft 2.2 in (158 cm)
Central America5 ft 6.1 in (168 cm) 5 ft 1.0 in (155 cm)
Africa5 ft 6.1 in (168 cm) 5 ft 2.2 in (158 cm)
South, East, Central Asia5 ft 7.3 in (171 cm) 5 ft 2.6 in (159 cm)
South, South East Asia5 ft 4.6 in (164 cm) 5 ft 0.2 in (153 cm)
Europe5 ft 10.9 in (180 cm) 5 ft 5.7 in (167 cm)
Australia 5 ft 10.5 in (179 cm) 5 ft 5.0 in (165 cm)

Source: World Data

What Is the Average Height in the Netherlands?

why are dutch people tall

We know that the Netherlands is home to the world’s tallest nation, but how tall are we talking?

The average height of Dutch men is 5 foot 11.8 inches (182.5 cm), and the average height of Dutch women is 5 foot 6.4 inches (168.7 cm). Compared to the likes of Central Americans, whose men are on average 5 foot 6.1 inches (168 cm) and women are 5 ft 1.0 in (155 cm), that’s quite the height difference. 

Why Are Dutch People Tall?

Environmental Factors

The Dutch height is fascinating, but it wasn’t always so high. Recent research into Dutch military records for a study published by the Royal Society of London found that Dutch men were actually among the shortest people in Europe back in the 1800s.

The Dutch have grown rapidly in 200 years, which is a pretty short period of time by evolutionary measures. It would suggest that most of this growth comes down to their environment and evolution.

Such factors could include dietary matters, such as high dairy consumption and attitudes within society. This has proposed a question around natural selection playing a role too.

Natural Selection

dutch woman calling on the phone

Natural selection is the change seen within populations of living things. Every person (animals included) has so many unique qualities, and some people have qualities that make them better equipped to live and thrive within their environment than others.

Natural selection suggests that those with traits that give them advantages are more likely to survive and reproduce. The idea is that these traits are passed down through genetics, and over time, these advantageous traits become more common in the population for generations to come.

Clearly, being tall became a marker for attractiveness over centuries in the Netherlands.

Why do the Dutch find tallness attractive?

This theory relies on the idea that we view certain qualities as “attractive” if they offer some advantage in this world. Within societies, height has become associated with better health, better education, and higher income.

Gert Stulp, a behavioral biologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, studied people over the age of 45 who were born in the Netherlands to Dutch-born parents. Within the sample of 42,616 people, they found that taller men had more children on average.

A Rise in Income and Higher Living Standards

wealthy dutch couple

According to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Netherlands is ranked above average for jobs, work-life balance, education, environmental quality, social networks, civic engagement, safety, and life satisfaction.

Having a good quality of life is an excellent foundation for a healthy life. When needs are being met, and stress is lower than average, people can thrive. For height, this means that Dutch people have a good chance of reaching their optimum size during puberty. If natural selection is true, living standards are an additional reason for the Dutch growth spurt.

From an income perspective, Professor Drukker at the University of Groningen suggests the nation’s growth is a result of the distribution of wealth. His theory explains that the rapid increase in Dutch height correlates with the establishment of the first liberal democracy in the country.

All the country’s wealth acquired from its colonies had been kept within high society. After the liberal democracy came into play, the wealth filtered through society. Average income went up, and so did height. More money means a better diet, better healthcare, and happier people.

The Influence of a High-Quality Diet

different types of cheese on the table

Stereotypes would have us believe that most Dutch people like to eat a lot of cheese and other dairy products. And while the Dutch do have a good appetite for dairy, the bigger picture of their diets can explain why they are so tall too.

Since it is so popular, let’s talk about dairy first. A Dutch diet is rich in calcium, thanks to their love for milk and cheese. Milk is commonly a favorite drink among Dutch people. They enjoy a glass along with their meal no matter whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Cheese is an inevitable part of being Dutch. Cheese shops can be found everywhere, ready for people to stock their fridges and enjoy the delicious delicacy. 

Aside from dairy, the Dutch also consume fish, potatoes, and meat. For an average meal, you could expect to be served fresh vegetables along with a form of meat and some potatoes at any point in the year.

People in the Netherlands consume nutritious food with variety, not skipping whole grains, fresh fruit, and vegetables. This balanced diet offers plenty of vitamins, a good amount of calories, and calcium needed to grow tall and healthy.


As promised, there is a wide range of answers to why Dutch people are so tall. It’s an interesting topic, and each factor offers a better insight into the culture of the Netherlands. 

Firstly, the Dutch haven’t always been tall, so it’s important to address natural selection. This theory suggests that we view certain qualities as “attractive” if they offer some advantage in this world. Within the Netherlands, height happened to be that quality. 

These associates are accurate for this society since the OECD says the Netherlands ranks higher than most for quality of life. This also allows people to thrive and reach their maximum height. 

We can also consider the liberal democracy for quality of life too — it allowed distribution of wealth sought from colonialism and thus offered better and healthier ways of living for the public.

And lastly, a happy, healthy life for Dutch people includes lots of cheese. The high levels of dairy intake provide plenty of nutrients for growth. Their tendency to eat a balanced diet also offers the body everything it needs to be tall and healthy.

So, the next time someone asks, “why are Dutch people tall?” you will be able to tell them that natural selection, living standards, and diet all play a part.