Saturday, April 9, 2011

English are now head and shoulders above Scots as growing wealth in the south adds inches to average height

Inadequate nutrition does limit height but it is difficult to imagine that Scots get inadequate nutrition these days. Over-nutrition, more likely. Scots have always moved South to better themselves and taller people probably felt more confident in doing that

If a Scotsman moans that other people belittle him, he might well have a point. For research has shown that the tallest Britons now live south of the border. Scots are, by and large, the shortest people in the UK, with the typical man averaging 5ft 8in. This compares to 5ft 9in for Londoners.

What might add to the Scots’ frustration is that it hasn’t always been this way. In fact, 200 years ago it was a completely different story, with the Scots towering over their English cousins.

Researchers say the reversal cannot be explained by the penchant north of the border for delicacies such as deep-fried Mars Bars.

Instead, they believe it is down to economics, with the pace of the improvement in living standards, nutrition and medicine in England – and particularly in the South – outstripping the change in Scotland.

Professor Bernard Harris, of Southampton University, said: ‘If you drew a map of people living in the early 19th century, then what you would find is the further north you went, the taller on average the population. Now, it would be the other way round. ‘The point is not that the Scots have shrunk, it is that living standards in the South of England have improved more dramatically over the past 200 years than those in Scotland.’

His research shows that two centuries ago the average Scot was an inch taller than those living in southern England, while Norwegians were among the shortest nationals in Europe. Today, the Norwegians are the second tallest nation in Europe, surpassed only by the Dutch, who average around 6ft.

But nationality is not the only thing that affects height, with wealth also adding inches. In his new book, The Changing Body, the professor revealed that there were dramatic differences between the heights of rich and poor classes in 18th and 19th century Europe. In the 1780s, the average height of a 14-year-old working-class child was 4ft 3in, while an upper-class child was 5ft 1in.

Professor Harris said: ‘Today, however, as health services, nutrition, sanitation and education have become universal, upper-class children have continued to grow taller, but at a slower rate than working-class children. ‘The difference between the upper and working-class adults has narrowed to less than 2.5in.’

Professor Harris trawled records from prisons, schools and the military to reveal the link between height and living standards.

Documents included in his research range from the details of soldiers who fought in the American civil war, to the vital statistics of convicts transported to Australia and measurements taken in British schools.


1 comment:

Malcolm Smith said...

There is also the tendency for taller people to be preferred in hiring, promotion etc. It is probably not a very strong tendency, but if two applicants are equal, the taller is more likely to get the job. Women are also more likely to marry, and breed with, a taller man.
As a six-footer, I consider this completely fair.