A new study by Harvard researchers shows that the average height of poor women in developing countries has declined in the past two decades. Average height is often used as an indicator of nutrition, disease and poverty levels within a society.
Wealthier populations tend to be taller because they can afford access to health education and better medical resources. Children from a higher socioeconomic bracket are less likely to suffer from poor health and malnutrition — factors that can stunt growth.
The study found that average height has fallen among women in 14 African nations and stagnated in 21 additional countries across Africa and South America. Data gathered from Demographic and Health Surveys polled 365,000 adult women in 54 poor and middle-income countries.
Via New York Times:
Only women ages 25 to 49 were included to avoid counting those young and growing, or old and shrinking. Women from Senegal and Chad were the tallest, while those from Guatemala and Bangladesh were the shortest.
The study found that the richest 20 percent of women in all the countries surveyed have grown. Those born in the 1940s averaged 5 feet 1 1/2 inches; those born in the 1980s averaged 5-foot-2.
Those in the poorest 20 percent averaged 5-foot-1, no matter what decade they were born in. Guatemala and Honduras had the biggest gaps in height between rich and poor women; Uganda and Ethiopia had the smallest.
S.V. Subramanian, a Harvard professor and the study’s lead author, draws a sobering conclusion from the data. “[T]he world is not getting to be a better place for women of lower socioeconomic status. For them, it’s getting worse.”
Photo credit: Scott Akerman