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European men taller than 100 years ago, study finds


Dutch artist Johan Huibers poses next to the 150 metre-long Noah's ark he created at an old abandoned quay on the Merwede River in Dordrecht on June 21, 2011. For the last three years the quaint old Dutch city of Dordrecht have been watching in amazement as construction businessman Johan Huibers' dream of building a 150 metre-long Noah's ark, stocked with thousands of plastic animals, slowly grew into a reality.



Ever wonder why the door frames are so small in old towns across Europe?

Well, British researchers have the answer. European men used to be much shorter than they are today.

A recent study found that the average height of a European man has increased 4.33 inches in the last century.

Researchers looked at male attributes in 15 European countries between 1870 and 1980, using data collected from men around 21 years old.

They found that the average man in 1870 stood about 5'6'' tall. By the 1970s that had jumped to about 5'10''.

The increase is partly due to better healthcare and fewer infant deaths.

Yet the greatest leap was between the world wars, during the Great Depression, which led parents to have fewer children. This phenomenon helped to increase heights despite austerity and food rationing.

"The evidence suggests that improvements in the disease environment, as reflected in infant mortality, is the single most important factor driving the increase in height," the study authors wrote.

They say that the change was not due to genetic evolution, which could not account for such substantial changes in such a short period of time.

The research was published in the Oxford Economic Papers journal.

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