Why Dutch People Are Getting Shorter

by : Hannah Smith on :
Why Dutch People Are Getting ShorterAlamy

The Dutch remain the tallest nation in the world, but according to a new study their reign at the top may be under threat.

Experts at Statistics Netherlands have warned that Dutch adults are shrinking, with women born in 2001 an average of 1.4cm shorter than those born in 1980, while for men the gap is an average of 1cm.


It’s hard to know exactly what’s behind the downwards trend: scientists have suggested everything from climate change to a more diverse gene pool, but according to one expert, the answer is far more straightforward.

The Dutch are the tallest people in the world (Alamy)Alamy

‘If this [trend] is real, it’s almost certainly nutrition,’ Professor Majid Ezzati, chair of global environmental health at Imperial College London told The Guardian, cautioning that while it would take a number of years to establish whether the shift in height was sustained, there was plenty of evidence to suggest poor nutrition was the primary culprit.

According to Ezzati, while evolutionary explanations like genetics would take longer to become apparent, changes to a population’s diet could be reflected sooner. The professor told The Guardian that he believed that easier access to unhealthy food as well as inequalities when it comes to healthy eating were likely reasons behind the decrease in average height, although further research was needed to prove that this was the case.

Dutch adults have shrunk over the past half century (Alamy)Alamy

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Ezzati pointed to research conducted by his team at Imperial College London that linked poor access to nutritious food to lower than average growth, but added that he believed the Dutch may actually grow taller before reaching their evolutionary peak.

‘I suspect that the Dutch have got, on average, at least a little bit more to go, whether that’s one or two centimetres or five centimetres on average, I don’t know,’ he said.

Ezzati’s theory has been backed up by various studies which have suggested that a levelling-off in growth may be a product of, among other things, a rise in the popularity of plant-based diets.


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Hannah Smith

Hannah is a London-based journalist covering news and features for UNILAD. She's especially interested in social and political activism.

Topics: Health, Netherlands, Nutrition


The Guardian
  1. The Guardian

    Why does the world's tallest populace seem to be getting shorter?