When you think of humans shrinking in size, your aging grandparents most likely come to mind. But according to a new study from the Non-Communicable Diseases Risk Factor Collaboration, Americans have been losing height and gaining body mass across the board since 1896.
A network of health scientists from the NCD-RisC conducted the height research, analyzing just under 1500 publicly available measurement surveys spanning 18.6 million people in 200 countries between 1896 and 1996.
While many people, including those from central and southern Europe and East Asia, have made substantial height gains over the last 100 years, Americans have experienced the opposite effect. A century ago, American men and women were once the third and fourth tallest people in the world, respectively. Today, American men place 37 out of 200 and women place 42 out of 200.
"This may be partly due to genetics, but most differences in height between countries have other causes," wrote the researchers of their findings. "For example, children and adolescents who are malnourished, or who suffer from serious diseases, will generally be shorter as adults." Unfortunately for us, being tall is associated with better health and longevity, with some tall people even earning more money over the course of a lifetime than those who are shorter.
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