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Average Man 11cm Taller Than a Century Ago

Update Date: Sep 02, 2013 01:39 PM EDT

Men are on average 11 centimeters taller than they were a century ago, according to new research.

The average height of European men increased by 11 centimeters or four inches between 1870 and 1980, according to a new study.

Scientists also found that the average height actually accelerated in the period spanning the two World Wars and the Great Depression. Scientists say this was especially true in the northern and middle European countries including Britain, Ireland, the Scandinavian countries, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and Germany.

Lead researcher Timothy J. Hatton of the University of Essex looked at data on the average height of adult males in birth cohorts between the 1870's and 1980 in 15 European countries.

"Increases in human stature are a key indicator of improvements in the average health of populations," Hatton wrote in the study.

'The evidence suggests that the improving disease environment, as reflected in the fall in infant mortality, is the single most important factor driving the increase in height," Hatton added. "The link between infant mortality and height has already been demonstrated by a number of studies."

Infant mortality rates decreased from 178 per 1,000 in the early 1870s to 120 per 1,000 in the early 1910s.  They dropped even further to 41 in the early 1950s and 14 between 1976 and 1980.

"One possible reason, alongside the crucial decline in infant mortality, for the rapid growth of average male height in this period was that there was a strong downward trend in fertility at the time, and smaller family sizes have already been linked with increasing height," Hatton wrote.

Other factors linked to the increase in average male height include a rise in income per capita, improved sanitation as well as better healthcare, education and social services.

The latest findings are published in the journal Oxford Economic Papers

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