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Alarming! Height of average Indian is declining, says study

Indians are not growing in height. This alarming fact has been quoted by a study titled ‘Trends of adult height in India from 1998 to 2015: Evidence from the National Family and Health Survey’.

The average height of adult men and women in India in from 2005-06 to 2015-16 has seen a significant decline after an increase from 1998-99. Women from the poorest sections and tribal women showed steepest decline.

This trend in India seems to be against a global trend as several studies in the past have shown that the average height of adults across the globe is on the rise. The authors of this study have reportedly stated, “In the context of an overall increase in average heights worldwide, the decline in the average height of adults in India is alarming and demands an urgent enquiry. The argument for different standards of height for the Indian population as different genetic groups needs further scrutiny.”

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And what’s worrying is that the study points to the fact that non-genetic factors are also at play. These include lifestyle, nutrition, social and economic determinants and so on. The authors studied various height trends of the average height of adults across India, and the results are a clear proof of the fact that average height of women and men in the age group of 15-25 years are on declime.

In women, the average height has gone down by nearly 0.42 cm. The average height of Indian men in this age group has significantly declined by 1.10 cm.

The authors wrote, “The role of nutrition over stature, however, has had a long and contested history among nutritionists, policymakers and health professionals. In India, the debate was recently fuelled by Dr (Arvind) Panagariya’s argument on stunting and subsequent critiques of it by various scholars. Evidently, much of this scholarship on stunting and height has focused on children.”

Talking about the factors which are influencing the decline in the average height of adults in India, the authors said that while it is usually said that genetic factors determine 60%–80% of the final height, environmental and social factors contribute also in a major way. to the realisation of that potential.