Home FAQ Why are Dutch so Tall? There are 3 Theories

Why are Dutch so Tall? There are 3 Theories

by Maja Świątnicka

Did you know that the Dutch are some of the tallest people in the world? When you compare an average man in the US (approximately 176cm) to average Dutchmen (approximately 185cm) you can clearly see the difference. An average adult in the Netherlands stands at 178cm which is quite impressive. Over the years, there have been many speculations around why Dutch people are so tall…

On the left Dutch Prime Minister – Mark Rutte

There are 3 theories why Dutch people are tall: genetics together with natural selection, diet and nutrition and then, last but not least, higher and higher standard of living over the past decades. Thanks to those, an average Dutchman is around 20cm taller than 150 years ago.

I have started to wonder which of the abovementioned plays the biggest role when it comes to the extraordinary tall Dutch people. I have found out that it hasn’t actually always been that way. Below you will find some more information on why evolution made people living in the Netherlands taller than the rest of us.

Is it Just a Natural Selection?

All European nations have grown within the last 150 years. However, not as fast as Dutch people – the average male height here is around 20cm higher than it was 150 years ago. If we take an average American man, it’s around 6cm over the same period of time.

What is interesting, 150 years ago, Dutchmen were approximately 7.5cm shorter than average male Americans. In fact, 150-200 years ago the Dutch were one of the shortest nations in Europe. (this is a military-based data).

Caricature of a Tall Thin Man Carrying a Book

Latest research shows that this phenomenon can have something to do with natural selection. When it comes to people, by natural selection we understand a phenomenon in which individuals, who better adapt to the environment, reproduce and survive. Some studies prove that tall people often have more children than those who are shorter. This is why they have better chances to pass their genes to the next generations.

In time, there are more and more Dutch with ‘tall’ genes. Height is a heritable attribute of humans. Tall parents are more likely to have tall children than shorter parents. In consequence, the average height in each following generation is a bit taller than in the previous one.

What is more, scientists have proved that taller men tend to have more kids on average. On the other hand, tall women have had lower infant mortality rates. Both of each likely impact later generations. It has been observed that the most fertile men in northern parts of the Netherlands are approximately 7cm higher (on average) than the median height. If you combine the ‘taller progeny’ with a high fertility rate among tall men, you will get a quickly increasing average height in the country.

What I have also noticed while in the Netherlands, this is a country where women usually choose the guys they date, not the opposite. Personally, I do not know any Dutch woman who would date a man who’s shorter than them. Very often, the very same height is not an option, too. Even if it’s normal in most countries, especially in southern ones, it is almost impossible to find a couple in which a woman is taller than a man in the Netherlands. The only exceptions are tourists and immigrants. Isn’t it interesting?

What about Diet and Nutrition?

The high-dairy diet is another possible explanation of why Dutch people are so tall. Everyone knows that calcium makes the bones grow bigger. You probably heard it a thousand times when you were children. So, is it possible that it is all down to the cows? There might be a strong correlation between dairy consumption and height. Scientists confirm that it is mainly connected with male height. A usual Dutch diet is quite calorific. Not only is it rich in dairy products, but also in meat.

As far as I’ve noticed, Dutch people tend to live in a quite healthy way. Their diet is very much about quality meat (fish, beef, chicken), good dairy, potatoes, and fresh vegetables. Milk is not only drunk by children; it is quite popular among adult Dutch to have a glass of milk while they are having breakfast or dinner. As a vegan, I am not a huge fan of milk, but it seems that this habit is one of the things that make people in the Netherlands grow taller.

Vitamins coming from fresh veggies also play a huge role here. They provide children with the energy they need to grow tall. Okay, all this makes sense. Nutrition can be a very popular explanation of why Dutch people are the tallest people in Europe. But is it the whole story?

High-Quality Diet!

What has to be highlighted, Dutch people are just amazing in making things simple. Especially when it comes to pleasure and food. All Dutch people I know put quality over quantity. And if we’re talking about diet and nutrition, the so-called ‘Dutch diet’ is one of the best for your brain.

A high-quality diet is one of the reasons behind a larger brain. By a high-quality diet, I understand meals that don’t make you feel stuffed but are more likely to make you feel satisfied. So, if you want to improve your brain health, try the Dutch diet and go for some meat, fresh vegetables, nuts, dairy products, fish and whole grains.

The Higher Standard of Living is Also Important

As mentioned above, all European nations have steadily grown over the past decades. Can a higher standard of living, rising income, and health care have anything in common with height then? Over the last 100 years, people living in the Netherlands have made a lot of progress in medical treatment, nutrition, and hygiene.

It strongly affected how old they get but at the same time, it affected how much taller they grow. The Dutch have become the tallest people in Europe in the last few decades and it just has to be connected with the distribution of wealth. Obviously, this might be a bit confusing, as the standard of living improved in most of the European countries, in some of them it might have even improved more quickly than in the Netherlands. And their citizens haven’t grown as Dutch people have.

Dutch growth has a lot to do with the establishment of a new political system when wealth started to be distributed inside all the groups in society.

This was a boost for an average income. Average people got access to better products, they took care of their diet and hygiene. At the same time, medical treatment and health care standards improved. The mortality rate dropped; the average length of life improved. The average standard of living rose. This all resulted in a relevant increase in an average height among Dutch society.

And this explanation just feels natural. It is obvious, the more money you have, the better and more nutritious food you buy. The less money-related issues you worry about, the better standard of living you can provide your children with. In most cases, your kids are more likely to grow healthy and tall. It’s all perfectly logical.

Will the trend continue? The standard of living and living conditions haven’t changed as quickly over the last 30-40 years as before. When you compare the years 1900 to 1950 and then 1980 to 2019, the progress has been definitely slowing down. This is why kids growing today will not be substantially taller. And nor the following generations.

Do Not Forget About a Snooze Time…

Last but not least… it doesn’t pay dividends to forget about some snooze time every day. Europeans, in general, have been living a busier and busier life which makes them sleep less than they should. According to some research, Dutch people are among the nations that sleep the most in Europe. Especially when they are young.

Even if this is the most humorous approach on the list, don’t let it slide! There must be a correlation between how you sleep as a child and growth. The growth hormone is produced while the body is resting, especially when you sleep. The conclusion comes of itself – the more you sleep as a child and a teenager, the more growth hormone your body will naturally produce. The more growth hormone your body produces while sleeping, the more likely you will grow taller. Isn’t is high time to take a quick nap?


I hope you have found the explanation that best suits your curiosity. In my opinion, all four reasons are partly true. The combination of all of them is the final reason why Dutch people are believed to be one of the tallest nations in the whole world. It is probably not very easy for some of them sticking out among a crowd but in my honest opinion, there are many pros of being a tall person. After all, tall people literally and figuratively are a head above the rest, aren’t they?

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