The 1980 generation may have been the tallest ever, benefiting from a huge increase in height.
Dutch men born in 1980 stood at an average height of 183.9 cm, and were 8.3 cm taller than those born in 1930. Women born in 1980 were also significantly taller at 170.7 cm, compared to 165.4 cm for those born in 1930.
The study by Statistics Netherlands, municipal health service the GGD and the National Institute for Public Health, the RIVM, analyzed 719,000 Dutch-born individuals aged between 19 and 60 who self-reported their height, and used the average height at age 19 as a benchmark.
The reason for the height decrease is partly related to increased levels of immigration from shorter population groups, according to researchers. However, growth also tapered off for individuals whose parents were both born in the Netherlands, and for those whose four grandparents were all Dutch-born.
Dutch men with no family history of migration did not show any increase in height, while Dutch women without any migration in their family got shorter.
However, the Dutch have stood head and shoulders above the rest of the world for their height increases over the last 70 years, with the streets of the Netherlands showing a very different picture in 2020 compared to the early 1950s, according to researchers.
While around 3% of the 1930-34 generation were at least 190 cm tall, in 2020 more than 20% is at least 190 cm, with 7% at more than 195 cm. In the 1950s, 42% of young men were shorter than 175 cm — but in 2020, that figure is just 12%.
For the same generation of women, less than 2% of the 1930-34 cohort reached a height of 180 cm. Among those born in 1980 however, nearly 10% are at least 180 cm tall.
The picture isn’t uniform across the Netherlands, with large differences between the north and south of the country. Those from Limburg are the shortest, while Friesland natives are between 3 and 3.5 cm taller.
Researchers emphasized that the Dutch have not lost their title of world’s tallest people, with those born at the turn of the millennium still claiming this status. They estimated the late 1950s generation to be the first to stake this claim to fame.