The review, published in the Oxford Economic Papers, is garnered from military, medical and other records for young adult males aged around 21 from 15 countries.
Northern European nations saw the largest growth in height between the two world wars. But those in southern Europe, a definition that includes France, had their increase post-World War II ::::
Timothy Hatton, an economist at the Australian National University in Canberra and the University of Essex in England, describes the change as “explosive”.
“The evidence suggests that the most important source of increasing height was the improving disease environment,” he wrote. “Rising income and education and falling family size had more modest effects.”
In 1980, Dutch men were the tallest of the 15 countries studied, reaching about 183cm, while the shortest were Portuguese, about 173cm.
The study only looked at men, as there is little accurate data for the height of women for this period.
Other research into height gains has found that Europe far outpaced Africa, Latin America and South Asia during this time, an era characterised by industrialisation, urbanisation, the advent of antibiotics and expanded health systems.