Shortest average height is defined as the average height of a country’s adult population, including both sexes, from large-scale studies and surveys that are representative of the national population as a whole. In these countries, it is common to see an adult height that is shorter than the standard adult height by global standards. Short stature has not been given a precise standard, but in developed countries a man shorter than 162.56 cm and a woman shorter than 149.86 cm are considered ‘short’. However, in some European countries, where being tall is the norm, men shorter than 170.18 cm, and women shorter than 157.48 cm, are considered short in height. Below average height in children and young adults, their causes are usually related to malnutrition. In adults, causes can often be associated with medical conditions. While shortness in height could also be linked to a person’s genes or human growth hormone deficiency, cultural and environmental factors also play an important role in a particular child’s growth into adulthood.
- 10. Nigeria – 161.925cm
- 9. Iraq – 160.655 cm
- 8. Malaysia – 159.385 cm
- 7. Vietnam – 158.75cm
- 6. India – 158,115cm
- 5. Peru – 157.48 cm
- 4. Sri Lanka – 156.21cm
- 3. Philippines – 156.21 cm
- 2. Indonesia – 151.765 cm
- 1. Bolivia – 151.13 cm
10. Nigeria – 161.925cm
Nigeria is also doing its best to improve the average height of the population of 161.925 cm, when both sexes are included. The Sahel region is hardest hit by malnutrition, which is responsible for the growth of Nigerian children. The figures show that approximately 1.1 million children are malnourished in the country, much of which is characterized by an arid environment. UNICEF continues to monitor the situation in Nigeria, but sectarian violence, especially along its northern borders, has hampered their efforts. Environmental factors such as a lack of clean water and unsanitary conditions also do not help. Studies show that people who are taken to a safe and clean place and fed the same nutrient-rich diet as their fellow natives eventually achieve the physical health and growth of the natives. That is proof of the importance of hygiene and sanitation for good health and growth all things being equal.
9. Iraq – 160.655 cm
Iraq has struggled to improve the average height of its population of 160.655 cm when both sexes are included. A Norwegian study showed that since the outbreak of the war with the US in 2003, malnutrition has increased to a high 7%, comparable to many Sub-Saharan African countries. What was once a thriving nation has been reduced to a third world country, with 400,000 children who are malnourished and thus increasingly vulnerable to disease. About 6.5 million Iraqis are today on food rations, and many of these rations are in turn exchanged for as many much-needed medicines. The ongoing civil war and internal conflict has almost completely disregarded cultural norms, as well as the normal environment that fosters kinship and family ties. Children now weigh 11 pounds below the standards, with many children lying in bed with all kinds of intestinal ailments due to unsanitary living conditions.
8. Malaysia – 159.385 cm
Malaysia has seen the link between malnutrition and the average height of the population, which currently stands at 159.385 cm when including both sexes. Statistics show that 12.5% of children in Malaysia are underweight, while 400,000 children are stunted in height. These figures are partly responsible for the stagnant average height of the Malaysian population in adulthood. Environmental factors, such as poor sanitation, disease, lack of clean water, proper housing and food shortages all contribute to the problem. The many families living well below the poverty line are the hardest hit.
7. Vietnam – 158.75cm
Vietnam has struggled for decades to improve on the average height of the population of 158.75 cm when both sexes are included. While the country has made progress in that regard, malnutrition is still rampant. Demography is one of the factors that makes the problem difficult to eradicate, especially in isolated mountain communities. ChildFund in Vietnam has taken small but important steps to help by giving milk to the children of these communities. The internal struggle has certainly taken its toll on the health of the population.
6. India – 158,115cm
India has taken steps to address issues that could improve the low average height of its population, which is only 158,115 cm when both sexes are included. In India, cultural and environmental issues often affect children’s health, which in turn can lead to malnutrition problems. The National Family Health study showed that 43.5% of Indian children are underweight, while 47.9% of children have stunting. Despite the numbers, many children in the country survive thanks to better health systems than in many other developing countries. Malnourished mothers are also often seen as the people who pass these conditions on to their predisposed children.
5. Peru – 157.48 cm
Peru also sees short statures in South America, with its adult population reaching 157.48 cm in average height when both sexes are included. In Peru, malnourished children usually come from jungle and highland communities. Famine, disease and cultural problems add to the problem. Poverty, food insecurity and low agricultural productivity also affect Peru’s malnutrition. The results of this often lead to a slowdown in growth, negative educational performance and low labor productivity. Health services and school nutrition programs are inaccessible to many, due to poverty and demographics.
4. Sri Lanka – 156.21cm
Sri Lanka has an adult population with an average height of 156.21 cm when both sexes are included. An adult’s height is usually determined by good childhood nutrition, and a recent nutritional study found that children’s nutritional values have not changed much for the better in the past 10 years. Other factors, such as teething, also contribute to the problem. Cultural and environmental factors can also be a cause of malnutrition, such as poor nutrition due to traditional food sources and a kitchen lacking the proper nutrients. Obesity can also result from wrong food choices, while not providing enough nutrients despite the excess calories. The children of the wealthy in the country also have a malnutrition rate of 11.9%, and the mothers themselves are often the deciding factor when it comes to a child’s nutritional needs.
3. Philippines – 156.21 cm
The Philippines has serious malnutrition problems that have impacted the adult height of the general population, which currently averages just 156.21 cm when including both sexes. The Ministry of Education recently released figures showing that 1.8 million Filipino children are malnourished, which can lead to abnormalities such as stunting and school dropout. Studies show that the problem is especially prevalent in the case of preterm pregnancies, where the mother is not fully physically equipped for the delivery and childcare. As a result, the likelihood of this situation happening again in the next generation is high. Although nutritional programs have been started, resources are not sufficient.
2. Indonesia – 151.765 cm
Indonesia’s population includes some of Asia’s shortest people standing at an average height of 151,765 cm when including both sexes. This trend has become cross-generational as many children in Indonesia are still malnourished. Stunting is seen in many developing countries and is reflected in the ‘normal’ heights of their respective people, but research shows that children’s growth is in large part related to good nutrition. Educational achievement and career success also depend on good nutrition, which in turn leads to economic growth in a country. UNICEF is currently supporting a food program in Indonesia that would address the issue.
1. Bolivia – 151.13 cm
Bolivia has some of the shortest people in the world, with an average population height of 151.13 cm, when both sexes are included. The country is one of the poorest in South America, with one in three children under the age of five affected by chronic malnutrition, often leading to below-average heights. Genetics and hormonal factors are also seen as culprits, with Bolivian girls being more affected than boys. Birth statistics from the city hall of La Paz, Bolivia showed that 42% of the babies were also short in height at birth. Canada, Belgium and France have launched a food program to help alleviate malnutrition in Bolivia.