Have you ever wondered why some people just grow up to be very tall while others are stuck at a height just above or below average?
You’ve probably asked yourself, “why are some people taller than others?” a few times. So we did some deep-diving to find out the answers.
It’s Not All About Genetics
The first answer that comes to mind when we are faced with this question is genetics. However, that answer can be a hasty generalization in most cases.
Let’s say genetics alone determines how tall or short an average person will be by the time they reach adulthood. Then how can a child in a family of average height adults grow up to be over six feet tall?
The reverse also happens where a child born in a family with a history of being tall ends up short or average height. These aren’t anomalies that only occur in a tiny percentage of the population. They’re more common than you think.
This shows that there are many other factors apart from genetics that explain why some people are taller than others. Genetics can be complicated, but it can be understood if broken down properly.
By the time you’re done with this article, you will have insight into how genetics works and the other factors that play a role in determining how tall or short a person will be..
What is the Average Human Height?
The human height is typically measured with a stadiometer to determine the distance from the bottom of the feet to the top of the head.
The study of heights (auxology) and why some people are taller than others have started not only from curiosity but also from the probability that a person’s height plays a huge role in life expectancy, health, and the overall well-being of the human body.
The average height of a person is not unanimous. It varies according to countries, regions, and areas of the world. Some countries around the world like the US have 175.26 cm (5 ft 9 in) as the average height for male and 162.56 cm (5 ft 4 in) as the average height for females.
In countries like India, the average height for men is 164.9 cm (5 ft 4.9 in), China 171.8 cm (5 ft 7.6 in), Nigeria 165.9 cm (5 ft 5.3 in), etc. The Dutch have the tallest male persons of average height in the world. The average Dutch man is measured 182.53 cm (5 ft 11.86 in) while the average Latvian woman is measured 168.72 cm (5 ft 6.42 in).
In today’s society, the normal height for the average male is 170.18 cm (5 ft 7 in), and for females, it is 162.56 cm (5 ft 4 in). Tall people are usually viewed as anyone from 182.88 cm (6 ft) for males and 170.18 cm (5 ft 7 in) for females.
While there are a lot of gaps and differences in heights of different groups of the world, what is common among them is that the males tend to be taller than the females even though adolescent females hit the pubertal growth spurt before males.
Currently, the world’s tallest man is Sultan Kösen, who stands at 251.00 cm (8 ft 2.82 in). Robert Wadlow is recognized as the tallest man ever in the world. He was measured 272 cm (8ft 11.1 in). The tallest woman currently is Turkish, Rumeysa Gelgi, who is 225.26 cm tall (7 ft 0.7 in).
In most countries around the world, the population’s height is taken and studied as a way to study their health. This has led to the popularization of the growth chart.
Why Are Some People Taller Than Others?
Like we’ve mentioned earlier, there are so many reasons why some people are taller than others, but the most common reasons are:
So many studies and experiments have been conducted to understand the science behind genetics in height. It is believed that if both parents of a child are tall, then the child will end up tall or taller than both parents and vice versa.
Although there are instances where short parents end up with taller kids. To explain this in simple terms, people receive two versions of each gene of their parents. These are called alleles. One allele will be active (called the dominant gene), while the other would not (called the recessive gene).
Both parents can have different versions of the same genes (heterozygous). Say they are short, but they have tall genes that are recessive in them. They can pass this recessive tall gene to their child, it can become active, and then that child can end up being tall.
But parents can also have the same version of a gene (homozygous). If they both have the short gene (that is dominant), they’ll pass it on to the child, who also ends up being short.
Of course, genetics is not the only determinant of why some people are taller than others, but it plays about 80% role in predicting a person’s height.
Studies have shown that the average young adult height has increased about 11 cm taller than what it used to be a century ago in European countries. These studies were conducted to try and understand how the average European could grow up to 4 feet tall over this period of time.
These studies have shown that the availability of nutritious resources in some parts of Europe played a big factor in the increase in height.
Countries that consume protein from fish, eggs, and dairy are more likely to increase in height, while those who get their protein from other sources, like cereals, tend to be shorter.
This is because the average person’s height correlates with how much protein they consume. Countries with a high consumption of protein and cattle per capita, like Australia, Argentina, and New Zealand, tend to have taller people.
Good nutrition at the beginning of a child’s life is necessary to boost growth in height. Humans typically grow the fastest as infants or toddlers, so this is essential. Also, during the pubertal growth spurt, balanced nutrition can lead to height gains. During this period, malnutrition can severely stunt a child’s growth.
This is also when girls can develop eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia, etc. If nutrition is not properly monitored, it can cause a decrease in height.
Access to good health care has also played a significant role in determining height. People who have good health are expected to grow more normally than people who do not.
3. Environmental Factors
Even before a child is born, there are so many factors that will play a role in influencing their weight and height. The mother’s health, nutrition, and drug use are some of these factors. Alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs have been known to affect the height and weight of babies.
Other factors such as socioeconomic status also have a role to play. People who live in Europe, Australia, etc, have seen an increase in height because of strong socio-economic development. They have easy access to good health care, food, and other services.
People in areas with chronic malnutrition, bad health care service, and undernourishment have stunted growth. This is noticeable in parts of Africa, North Korea, etc. Guatemala, a developing country, has an 82% rate of stunted children under the age of five.
There is a structure in our brain called the pituitary gland, which produces a growth hormone called human growth hormone or HGH. This growth hormone is active in childhood and increases during puberty.
Some children have weakened hormone levels and need synthetic growth hormones prescribed to help them reach the proper size. Other children have acromegaly, a benign tumor in the pituitary gland that causes extreme growth hormone levels. Sultan Kösen (tallest man in the world currently) suffers from this.
While taller people benefit a lot from their height in terms of sports (basketball, swimming, volleyball, etc). they are also at a disadvantage when it comes to basic things. From fitting into normal-sized chairs and clothes to more important stuff like increased risk of medical conditions such as cancer, heart diseases, and blood clots – being tall can have it’s downsides.
Many factors cause differences in people’s height. Some factors are completely out of our control, and some are not. With that being said, it is almost impossible for anyone to control their height. Even though we know what factors influence height, there isn’t a specific formula. There have been claims of some stretches and exercises being able to help make you taller, but none of them have been backed fully by evidence and science.
But the next time someone asks, “why are some people taller than others?” these factors should be on your list of answers.