Population Study

Population Study

The world’s tallest nation has stopped growing taller: the height of Dutch children from 1955 to 2009

Received:
Accepted:
Published online:

Abstract

Background:

Records show that mean height in The Netherlands has increased since 1858. This study looks at whether this trend in the world’s tallest nation is continuing. We consider the influence of the geographical region, and of the child and parental education, on changes in height.

Methods:

We compared the height of young Dutch people aged 0–21 y as determined on the basis of the growth study of 2009, with the height data from growth studies conducted in 1955, 1965, 1980, and 1997.

Results:

The analysis sample included 5,811 boys and 6,194 girls. Height by age was the same as in 1997. Mean final height was 183.8 cm (SD = 7.1 cm) in boys and 170.7 cm (SD = 6.3 cm) in girls. The educational levels of both children and their parents are positively correlated with mean height. Since 1997, differences between geographical regions have decreased but not vanished, with the northern population being the tallest.

Conclusion:

The world’s tallest population has stopped growing taller after a period of 150 y, the cause of which is unclear. The Dutch may have reached the optimal height distribution. Alternatively, growth-promoting environmental factors may have stabilized in the past decade, preventing the population from attaining its full growth potential.

  • Subscribe to Pediatric Research for full access:

    $789

    Subscribe

Additional access options:

Already a subscriber?  Log in  now or  Register  for online access.

References

  1. 1.

    . Secular changes in growth. Horm Res 1996;45:Suppl 2:8–17.

  2. 2.

    , et al. Continuing positive secular growth change in The Netherlands 1955-1997. Pediatr Res 2000;47:316–23.

  3. 3.

    , et al. Height, wealth, and health: an overview with new data from three longitudinal studies. Econ Hum Biol 2009;7:137–52.

  4. 4.

    . Secular growth changes. In: , eds. Human Growth. New York: Plenum Press, 1988:307–31.

  5. 5.

    . Paradoxes of modernization and material well-being in The Netherlands during the 19th century. In: , eds. Health and Welfare During Industrialization. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1997:331–79.

  6. 6.

    . Growth and puberty in German children: is there still a positive secular trend? Dtsch Arztebl Int 2009;106:377–82.

  7. 7.

    . The recent decline in the height of African-American women. Econ Hum Biol 2010;8:58–66.

  8. 8.

    Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, (Statistics Netherlands). [Dutch Gross Domestic Product 2000-2009]. (). Accessed 3 May 2012.

  9. 9.

    . [Life situation, happiness and quality of life]. In: Bijl R, Boelhouwer J, Cloïn M, Pommer E, eds. [The Social State of The Netherlands 2011]. Den Haag: Sociaal Cultureel Planbureau, 2011:307.

  10. 10.

    . [Life situation]. In: Roes T, ed. [Social State of The Netherlands 2001]. Den Haag: Sociaal Cultureel Planbureau, 2001:241.

  11. 11.

    . Anthropometric evidence on economic growth, biological well-being and regional convergence in the Habsburg Monarchy, c. 1850-1910. Cliometrica 2007;1:211–37.

  12. 12.

    . Dairy consumption and female height growth: prospective cohort study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2009;18:1881–7.

  13. 13.

    Productschap Zuivel (Dutch Dairy Board). EU and other countries - consumption. In: Productschap Zuivel (Dutch Dairy Board), ed. [Statistical Yearbook 2010]. Zoetermeer, The Netherlands: Productschap Zuivel (Dutch Dairy Board), 2011:83–107.

  14. 14.

    , et al. Increase in prevalence of overweight in Dutch children and adolescents: a comparison of nationwide growth studies in 1980, 1997 and 2009. PLoS ONE 2011;6(11):e27608.

  15. 15.

    . Relation of age at menarche to race, time period, and anthropometric dimensions: the Bogalusa Heart Study. Pediatrics 2002;110:e43.

  16. 16.

    . The relation of menarcheal age to obesity in childhood and adulthood: the Bogalusa heart study. BMC Pediatr 2003;3:3.

  17. 17.

    Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, (Statistics Netherlands). [Population Development CBS]. (). Accessed 7 July 2011.

  18. 18.

    . [Deceleration of Height and Weight Increase]. Voorburg/Heerlen, The Netherlands: Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (Statistics Netherlands), Demographic Statistics, 4th quarter 2007, 2007.

  19. 19.

    Denmark Statistics. Population and elections. In: Agerskov U, Bisgaard MP, eds. Statistical Yearbook 2011. Copenhagen, Denmark: Statistics Denmark, 2011:53.

  20. 20.

    Norway Statistics. Statistical Yearbook of Norway 2010 - Health and Social Conditions. (). Accessed 3 May 2012.

  21. 21.

    . The evolution of adult height in Europe: a brief note. Econ Hum Biol 2007;5:340–9.

  22. 22.

    Norway Helsedirektoratet. [Physical Fitness Among Adults and the Elderly in Norway - Results From a Survey in 2009-2010]. Oslo, Norway: Helsedirektoratet Norway, 2010.

  23. 23.

    . [Average height of adolescents in the Dinaric Alps]. C R Biol 2005;328:841–6.

  24. 24.

    . [Growth Diagrams for Ages 1-25 Years in The Netherlands]. Leiden, The Netherlands: Nederlands Instituut voor Praeventieve Geneeskunde, 1960.

  25. 25.

    . [Growth Diagrams 1965 The Netherlands]. Leiden/Groningen, The Netherlands: Nederlands Instituut voor Praeventieve Geneeskunde/Wolters Noordhoff, 1965.

  26. 26.

    . [Growth diagrams 1980: Netherlands third nationwide survey]. Tijdschr Soc Gezondheidsz 1985;63:1–34.

  27. 27.

    Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, (Statistics Netherlands). [Demographic statistics 2006]. (). Accessed 12 November 2007.

  28. 28.

    . [Standard definition immigrants]. Index 2000;10:24–5.

  29. 29.

    . [Categorising educational level]. In: Volksgezondheid Toekomst Verkenning, ed. [The Dutch 2008 Public Health Status and Forecast Report]. Bilthoven, The Netherlands: RIVM, 2008.

  30. 30.

    . The LMS method for constructing normalized growth standards. Eur J Clin Nutr 1990;44:45–60.

  31. 31.

    Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, (Statistics Netherlands). [Demographic statistics 2008]. (). Accessed 24 July 2009.

  32. 32.

    . MICE: multivariate imputation by chained equations in R. J Stat Softw 2011;45:1–67.

  33. 33.

    . Selection issues. In: , ed. Flexible Imputation of Missing Data. Boca Raton, FL: Chapman & Hall/CRC Press, 2012:212–8.

  34. 34.

    Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau (Netherlands Institute for Social Reseach). [Status scores 2006]. (). Accessed 11 January 2010.

  35. 35.

    . Smoothing reference centile curves: the LMS method and penalized likelihood. Stat Med 1992;11:1305–19.

  36. 36.

    . Worm plot: a simple diagnostic device for modelling growth reference curves. Stat Med 2001;20:1259–77.

  37. 37.

    . Generalized additive models for location scale and shape (GAMLSS) in R. J Stat Softw 2007;23:1–46.

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank all the children, their parents, and the community health care workers who participated in this study. We thank ActiZ and GGD-Nederland for their cooperation in the study. We thank Deltion College/OPOZ VU-Windesheim and GGD Amsterdam for kindly providing their data sets.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Child Health, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), Leiden, The Netherlands

    • Yvonne Schönbeck
    •  & Simone E. Buitendijk
  2. Institute for Health and Care Research (EMGO+), Free University Medical Center (VUmc), Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    • Henk Talma
    •  & Remy A. HiraSing
  3. Department of Life Style, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), Leiden, The Netherlands

    • Paula van Dommelen
    •  & Stef van Buuren
  4. Department of Pediatrics, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands

    • Boudewijn Bakker

Authors

  1. Search for Yvonne Schönbeck in:

  2. Search for Henk Talma in:

  3. Search for Paula van Dommelen in:

  4. Search for Boudewijn Bakker in:

  5. Search for Simone E. Buitendijk in:

  6. Search for Remy A. HiraSing in:

  7. Search for Stef van Buuren in:

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yvonne Schönbeck.