Height as an Indicator of Health and Economic Well-Being?

The United States reigned as the tallest country in the world through much of its history as a nation, but in recent years, it has slipped in the ranks while the Northern Europeans and the Dutch have jumped ahead. While you may not think this is a big deal, it’s important to realize that many doctors and economists consider height to be an indicator of health and nutrition, and it’s fairly likely that they are onto something. 

“Height is like holding a mirror to a society’s well-being,” said John Komlos, Economist at the University of Munich, in an NPR article. 

He added that among the reasons the Dutch are so tall are the country’s focus on good nutrition during pregnancy and childhood, and its healthcare system, which offers equal access to important resources like prenatal care — something we don’t have here in the U.S., where a large percentage of the population is without health insurance.

While many people are a well aware that health and nutrition play a large roll in growing tall and strong, the economics connection comes into play when one considers the fact that two of the largest influences on height — nutrition and health — are also both linked to an individual’s economic well-being.  For example, having more money allows more opportunities to eat healthy and nutritious foods, and also facilitates paying for important visits to the doctor.

Additionally, the NPR article points out height and economic success correlate in terms of taller people earning more money, or even being smarter.

“If you’ve reached your maximum height, that probably means you’ve reached your physical and mental development,” says Andreas Schick, a graduate student at Ohio State University, in the NPR article. “That helps you reach your maximum potential, be that intellectually or socially.”

Political discussions and debates these days are rife with talks of healthcare and the economic status of our nation. If this height-to-health correlation does in fact hold weight, the United States may have some work and thinking to do when it comes to its policies regarding prenatal and childhood health and nutrition, because it’s clear these factors may have even larger implications than previously realized.


Image courtesy of Photos8.com


Mark A.
Mark A.3 years ago

They say height growth is bimodal; meaning to say that many genes play a role in detemining height Also there are the environmental factors to consider. Further recommended reading: Grow Taller Academy

Mark A.
Mark A.3 years ago

They say height growth is bimodal; meaning to say that many genes play a role in detemining height Also there are the environmental factors to consider. Further recommended reading: Grow Taller Academy

AndreaILLNoMail Oefinger
Past Member 6 years ago

If this is true, then why in the US are women getting taller, while men get shorter? Men still make more money than us, and we still do not have true pay equality. I guess our extra height is supposed to be our doorprize.

John-michael N.
John-michael N.7 years ago

Hahaha You gotta luv Schick's schtick
"If you've reached your maximum height, that probably means you've reached your physical and mental development," says Andreas Schick
Really?---someone has reached the apex of mental acuity at maximum height? Hmmm. If that were the case, I would expect Stephen Hawking to be wheeling around in a chaise lounge. This is a very "heightist" misconception. Height does correlate with good prenatal and early childhood nutrition, but has no connection with the maximum physical or mental potential of individuals. Any good researcher must be constantly on guard against over-extending the meaning of correlational indices.

troy H.
T.L. H7 years ago

The average person quits growing between 12-16 yrs.old how will reforming health policy extend that?If we could all grow until we were 25 we would all be tall geniuses.

Maarja L.
Maarja L7 years ago

This article does not consider genetics, which can contribute to both height (or the lack of it) and health issues, at all. It really is rather dissappointing.

Jan Boyd
Jan Oyd7 years ago

I think this report is "Heightest", which is to say is is condesending towards people who are considered short, like myself. I graduated college, got two teaching credentials and taught for 30 years. I honestly cannot say the tallest students were the brightest by any means. Also, countries where people are mostly small and short, like Japan and China, seem to often produce very bright and hardworking students/children. Where is a report that links height with intelligence? I really want to see it!

Donni Schick
Donni Schick7 years ago

Well this is a tall pile of poop! How short is the person who wrote this?

.7 years ago

I don't know how this writer can assert that the US had the tallest citizens for most of its history. When were those first measurements taken? Did they include the Irish, Native Americans, Chinese railroad workers, the Hispanics? If you want to see tall people, go to Russia- and they've been taller than the WASP Americans and other Europeans for centuries.

Janice P.
Janice P7 years ago

I have to take issue with this article and its underlying premise. The issue of genetics, as others have noted, has not been addressed at all. That is a huge determinative factor in ones height. I will admit that, in the generations following mine, people have grown taller (as well as fatter and sicker), and that may, indeed, be linked to the changes in our food supply over the years.

However, I cannot accept the idea that height = good health = economic wellbeing. And, I definitely see no relationship between height, good health, and intelligence. In my case, I am 5'1", am in fabulous health, have no disabilities or serious medical problems, have an I.Q. of 163, and was first a university professor and later an attorney, before I had to quit working to care of my elderly parents. My grandfather, who was also a very short man, hand made and repaired x-ray machines for hospitals all over this country. My mother's side of the family consists of all very short, but well accomplished people, who enjoyed good health far into their late 80's.

On the other hand, I have known many, many people, who could tower over me and who were as dumb as a stump. Many of them could not have found their way out of a paper bag with assistance. Some had good health. Others had very poor health, both during their younger years and later in life.

Height DOES seem to have some relationship to presidents, but that has not proved to be concomitant with wisdom, just connections.