Indonesian school students wearing uniform are raising their hands while holding red white flag in the midst of the rice field. Image credit Gatot Adri via Shutterstock

Countries with the Shortest Average Heights

People come in all shapes and sizes; without that variety, planet earth would be a little less exciting. Moreover, without differentiation, human beings would be more susceptible to diseases that take advantage of similarities in genetic code. One symptom of nature and nurture in human beings is height, a trait that has pros and cons for both ends of the spectrum. By analyzing data about citizens across the world, it is possible to assemble a list of countries that have the shortest average citizens. Nutrition, or lack thereof, can play a significant part in how growth hormones increase or decrease the height of an adult person. Widespread environmental and cultural factors may also affect a child’s development. Each country with the shortest height has many exceptions to its national average: many residents will be taller, and many residents will be shorter.

Peru (5 feet, 4.57 inches)

Two indigenous Quechua women in traditional clothes walking down the path to the harbor of Isla Taquile with the Titicaca Lake in the background, Peru
Two indigenous Quechua women walking down the path to the harbor of Isla Taquile, Peru. Image credit SL-Photography via Shutterstock

In South America, Peru has a fair amount of short-statured folks with its adult population reaching 5 feet, 4.57 inches in average height; this includes all genders. In Peru, malnourishment is a crisis affecting jungle and highland communities. Famine, disease, and cultural issues have played a part in stunting growth. Poverty, food insecurity, and low agricultural productivity also add to the malnutrition issue. Besides a lower average height, these factors also contribute to poor educational achievement and low career productivity. Health services and school feeding programs are non-accessible to many citizens, due to poverty and demographics.

Nigeria (5 feet, 4.49 inches)

People walking in the sand in a small village in the Sahel.
People walking in the sand in a small village in the Sahel. Image credit mbrand85 via Shutterstock

Located above the Gulf of Guinea in the African continent, Nigeria’s population has an average height of 5 feet and 4.49 inches. The Sahel region of Nigeria has rampant malnutrition, which accounts for the stunting of growth in many Nigerian children. Figures show that there are 2 million undernourished children in the country, which is not aided by its arid environment. UNICEF continues to monitor the situation in Nigeria, but sectarian violence, especially along the northern borders, has affected their efforts. Environmental factors such as a lack of clean water and unsanitary conditions do not help either.

Sri Lanka (5 feet, 4.41 inches)

Silhouettes of the traditional fishermen at the sunset in Sri Lanka
Silhouettes of the traditional fishermen at the sunset in Sri Lanka. Image credit Val Shevchenko via Shutterstock

Located on an island southeast of India, residents of Sri Lanka have an average measurement of 5 feet, 4.41 inches. A 2022 UNICEF study shows that Sri Lanka ranks second in the highest malnutrition rates throughout South Asia. Proper nutrition during childhood, childhood diseases, and other factors contribute to the problem. Cultural and environmental factors also can be a cause of malnutrition, such as poor nutrition due to traditional food sources and cuisine that lacks the right nutrients. Obesity can also result from the wrong food choices, all the while not supplying enough nutrients despite excess calories. Notably, even children of rich families in Sri Lanka suffer from malnutrition.

Ecuador (5 feet, 4.37 inches)

People in Quito, Ecuador
People in Quito, Ecuador. Image credit julius fekete via Shutterstock

Situated on the northwestern coast of South America, Ecuador comes in at number seven with an average height of 5 feet and 4.37 inches. The diverse landscape amongst the Andean foothills and highlands is an attributing factor, in terms of nutritional infrastructure. A typical diet includes fish, rice, and potatoes, as well as coffee. While the lack of processed meals is a benefit, Ecuador still has the second-highest rate of chronic child malnutrition in Latin America. The indigenous population suffers disproportionately from malnutrition, an issue that the government hopes to tackle in the next decade, although intervention is difficult.

Nepal (5 feet, 4.17 inches)

mother and child in the third world country Nepal
Mother and child walking in Nepal. Image credit Kristin F. Ruhs via Shutterstock

It is ironic that Nepal, situated next to the tallest mountain on earth, consists of one of the shortest populations on earth. Indeed, the terrain of Nepal under the Himalayan Mountain range is detrimental to industries, and therefore distribution of goods. A 2019 UNICEF report shows that over 17% of the population suffers from extreme poverty. Moreover, inadequate infant and child feeding practices have harmed youth development in Nepal; breastfeeding is withheld from many children. Natural disasters like drought, floods, landslides, and earthquakes are factors leading to food insecurity in Nepal as well.

Cambodia (5 feet, 3.98 inches)

Two neophytes walking in Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Two neophytes walking in Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Image credit Peerapat Lekkla via Shutterstock

Cambodian nutrition is one of fish and fruit, leading to a low-fat and low-calorie diet. Situated in Southeast Asia, the average height of Cambodian citizens is 5 feet, 3.98 inches. Scattered throughout the nation are many low-lying plains and mountains, although Cambodia also has a significant stretch of coast in the southeast. Unfortunately, reports for children have found 32% experience stunted growth and 24% are underweight, with rural areas hit the hardest. Despite the current nutrition issues, Cambodia has put in a significant effort to bolster child health in the last twenty years.

Vietnam (5 feet, 3.82 inches)

Women carry salt from salt farm to factory, NhaTrang, Vietnam
Women carry salt from salt farm to the factory, NhaTrang, Vietnam. Image credit EmEvn via Shutterstock

Vietnam's population has an average height of 5 feet, 3.82 inches, including all genders. Although the country has been making progress during the last few decades, malnutrition is still rampant. Isolated demographics are one factor that makes the problem difficult to eradicate in Vietnam, especially in secluded mountain communities. ChildFund in Vietnam has made small, yet significant, strides in helping by providing milk to these communities' children. Internal strife has certainly taken a toll on its population's health as well. Hopefully, the situation will stabilize in the near future.

The Philippines (5 feet, 3.7 inches)

Tribal farmer on rice terraces mountain in The Philippines
Tribal farmer on rice terraces mountain in The Philippines. Image credit Suriya99 via Shutterstock

The Philippines has severe malnutrition problems that have affected its general population's adult height, which is currently averaging 5 feet, 3.7 inches. The European Commission recently released figures that show malnourishment in 28.8% of Filipino children under five years of age. This could lead to abnormalities such as stunting and academic struggle. Studies show that the problem is especially prevalent during early-age pregnancies, where the mother is not physically equipped for childbirth and childcare. Although feeding programs exist, funding and distribution are not meeting the high demand.

Bolivia (5 feet, 2.9 inches)

People walking in a street in La Paz, Bolivia
People walking in La Paz, Bolivia. Image credit Galyna Andrushko via Shutterstock

Bolivia has some of the shortest people in stature in the world, with its population's height averaging 5 feet, 2.9 inches tall between all genders. The country is one of the poorest in South America. One in three children under the age of five years struggles with chronic malnutrition, often leading to below-average heights. Genetics and hormonal factors are factors as well, with Bolivian girls more commonly affected than boys. Statistics on births from the City Hall of La Paz, Bolivia showed that 42% of babies had short height at birth as well. Canada, Belgium, and France have stepped in and created a food program to help alleviate malnutrition in Bolivia.

Indonesia (5 feet, 2.2 inches)

Procession of Balinese women in traditional costumes for Hindu ceremony on Bali island, Indonesia
Procession of Balinese women in traditional costumes for Hindu ceremony on Bali island, Indonesia. Image credit Denis Moskvinov via Shutterstock

Indonesia's population takes first place when it comes to the shortest people; the average standing at a height of 5 feet, 2.2 inches. This trend has become generational with many children in Indonesia malnourished. The diet of Indonesia is rich, with staples like rice and wheat used throughout. Although there are many vegetarian dishes, most Indonesians do not practice strict vegetarianism. Duck and goat meat are commonly consumed, but pork is rarely found due to religious reasons. UNICEF is currently supporting a food program in Indonesia to address the issue.

Each of these countries has unique conditions that created a prevalence of shorter heights within their populations. Unfortunately, widespread malnutrition is a common theme. Geographical separation from infrastructure can put many rural communities at risk when attempting to stock up on affordable food sources. This presents an opportunity for nations and organizations around the world to step up and fill in the gap; everyone needs to eat. While height can be a symptom of nutrition, there are other factors such as genetics at play. These lists change frequently, as every generation of youth around the world experiences unique challenges and circumstances.

Country Mean Height Male Male Height Rank Mean Height Female Female Height Rank
Netherlands 183.7823942 1 170.3612107 71
Montenegro 183.3021555 2 169.9608833 169
Bosnia and Herzegovina 182.4739613 3 167.4703934 137
Iceland 182.1015752 4 168.9134842 179
Denmark 181.8926588 5 169.4706062 115
Czech Republic 181.1866355 6 167.9634761 88
Latvia 181.1711171 7 168.8066284 151
Slovakia 181.0154868 8 167.1227997 116
Slovenia 180.9774125 9 167.1975653 148
Ukraine 180.9759732 10 166.6226773 38
Croatia 180.7589162 11 166.8030687 130
Serbia 180.7387125 12 168.285067 105
Lithuania 180.7233147 13 167.6298923 141
Poland 180.6864059 14 165.7761352 37
Finland 180.5693897 15 166.4751191 118
Norway 180.4752288 16 166.448307 120
Sweden 180.4567319 17 166.6739103 87
Estonia 180.34 18 168.6627596 156
Germany 180.2812073 19 166.177267 19
Dominica 180.1526393 20 166.8884613 204
Bermuda 179.7190928 21 166.1100662 206
Puerto Rico 179.48215 22 163.0573217 136
Greece 179.2597832 23 165.8130758 90
Belgium 179.0933196 24 163.4017271 81
Ireland 179.0393832 25 164.4968527 125
Lebanon 178.9571414 26 163.6704906 26
Andorra 178.8426285 27 165.5339424 203
Antigua and Barbuda 178.8352709 28 165.7236873 201
Australia 178.7742139 29 164.6657115 55
Canada 178.7495629 30 164.7299393 39
Switzerland 178.7319158 31 164.3299732 101
Grenada 178.6999159 32 165.9886854 193
Belarus 178.6913126 33 166.9286256 96
France 178.6048688 34 164.4886274 23
Austria 178.5244202 35 166.9267081 99
Luxembourg 178.4613975 36 165.0690213 168
Cook Islands 178.3230318 37 167.3085696 223
French Polynesia 178.3164001 38 166.518656 183
United Kingdom 178.2080213 39 163.9391448 21
Romania 177.8235057 40 164.7308377 64
New Zealand 177.7186704 41 164.6600412 123
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 177.4938788 42 165.3026536 199
Niue 177.1925778 43 167.0322654 232
American Samoa 177.0945415 44 167.5515216 213
Barbados 177.0283641 45 165.6637541 186
Jamaica 176.9742253 46 164.3192602 139
United States 176.9373331 47 163.3118826 3
Tunisia 176.8533816 48 161.6854548 79
Russia 176.6489555 49 164.5173719 9

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