The Netherlands has been proud to have the population considered the highest in the world. According to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the Dutch are taller than people from other nations since 1958.

However, a recent study points out that the latest generation has shrunk in size compared to the previous one. On average, men are 1 cm shorter, and women have lost 1,4 cm.  

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Men and women born in the Netherlands in the 2000s lost stature compared to those born in the 1980s. Image: Andrei Korzhyts – Shutterstock

Although there are many lines of research trying to find a reason for this, experts guarantee that nothing is 100% conclusive.

Dutch are the tallest people since the last century

On its website, CBS reports that the trend towards taller stature in the Netherlands began approximately a century ago. The office conducts health censuses every four years, which include measuring height.

According to the latest survey, in 2020, 19-year-old Dutch men reached an average height of 1,829 meters, while women's height was 1,693 m.

Generation by generation, the growth of the Dutch has a continuous and rapid progression, with an average of 8,3 cm added to the height of men born in 1980 compared to those born in 1930. In relation to women, over the same period of time, they grew 5,3 cm.

“We drink a lot of milk in this country,” Ruben van Gaalen, CBS statistical researcher and professor of sociology at the University of Amsterdam, told BBC News, giving one of the possible explanations for the height of his people.

All kidding aside, he listed other factors. “It could be the standard of living. If we look at the human development index of all countries, the Netherlands is among the first. Others, like Denmark, have a similar rate and also have high populations.”

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Another reason given by van Gaalen is a phenomenon of natural selection. "Having a greater height allows people to see further."

He also stated that there are studies on the relationship between height and income. “The higher, the more money you earn. If you're tall, you feel more authoritative and maybe people listen to you more, you get more social prestige," he explained, adding that, in general, women are attracted to men who are taller than they are. .

This is the reason, according to the researcher, why taller men tend to have more options when selecting their partners.

Immigration and change in Dutch diet may explain a change in profile

It turns out that, according to the new CBS study, this picture is changing. The survey obtained measurements personally provided by 719 respondents, aged between 19 and 60 years.

According to experts, among the reasons for this phenomenon may be the increase in immigration and changes in diet, as well as the effects of economic crises.

“Migration is a factor,” said van Gaalen. "If we are the tallest people in the world, by definition migrants are shorter, their genetic makeup is that of shorter people."

However, stagnant stagnancy was also observed in generations with native Dutch fathers and mothers, and the same happened with generations whose four grandparents were born in that country.

According to the study, both men without a history of immigration did not grow taller than women in the same condition showed a tendency to decrease in stature.

Another possible theory cited by Ruben van Gaalen is that the decrease in average height may be due to a biological limit, as the individual would not be able to grow beyond a certain limit.

Anyway, what most worries researchers is that this is due to a change in lifestyle and increased caloric consumption during the growth phase of young people.

"Body mass index (BMI) in children has increased over time, across all social classes, and this can cause people not to grow as much as they used to," explained van Gaalen.

He warns that if this effect is related to a less healthy lifestyle, this should be investigated, as it is related to life expectancy. "We stopped smoke as much as before, but we have a more sedentary life and we consume more calories and gain weight. Therefore, the indirect effect of not being as high as before is more worrying than the fact of not being as high”, he concluded.

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