The Dutch are the world’s tallest people – but they are shrinking

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Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, towers over Emmanuel Macron, the 5ft 9in tall French President during a visit to Paris in August. - AFP
Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, towers over Emmanuel Macron, the 5ft 9in tall French President during a visit to Paris in August. - AFP

The Dutch, long renowned for being the tallest people in the world, are shrinking, according to research published on Friday.

The diminution of the famously giant populace is partly explained by the immigration of smaller people from other countries and their children being born in the Netherlands, according to the study by Statistic Netherlands.

But it is less clear why people with exclusively Dutch roots, which is defined as all parents and grandparents having been born in the country, are also not as tall as they used to be, although a worse diet could be a factor.

The Dutch retain their title as the world's giants, with the average man 5ft 11in and the average woman 5ft 7in.

Last year more than one in five Dutch men were 6ft 2in or taller. Seven per cent were 6ft 4in or taller. Nearly one in 10 girls born around 1980 grew to at least 5ft 9in.

But that is declining. Men born in 2001 are on average 1cm shorter than those born in 1980, while women are 1.4cm shorter, the study found.

The Dutch shot up for much of the last century. In the 1950s, just three per cent were taller than 6ft 2in and the Dutch were still getting taller on average until 1980 when growth stalled.

The statistics agency surveyed 719,000 people who were born in the Netherlands for the research.

Dutch not the only nation getting shorter

Gert Stulp, of the University of Groningen, said people were also shrinking elsewhere in the world.

"In the United States, for example, growth is levelling off and women are shrinking slightly. This may be due to the fact that people are eating less well: less varied, more fatty foods. This could also play a role here in the Netherlands,” he told the NOS broadcaster.

However, other nations are shooting up. Men from Montenegro, Estonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are now almost as tall as the Dutch, with an average height of over 5ft 9in.

The smallest men in the world come from East Timor, Laos, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, who are about 5ft 3in on average. The smallest women come from Guatemala, Bangladesh, Nepal and East Timor, where they are about 5ft.

Mark Rutte, the acting Dutch prime minister, met Boris Johnson for a working dinner in London on Friday night.

While Mr Rutte is over 6ft 3in tall, the British prime minister measures a comparatively stunted 5ft 9in.

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