09/08/2013 10:59 am ET

Average Height Of Men In Europe Grew 11 Centimeters In Over A Century (VIDEO)

Men are reaching new heights, at least in Europe where a new study has found that the average height of European males increased by 11 centimeters in over one century.

The research, published Monday in the journal Oxford Economic Papers, looked at data from the 1870s to 1980. During that time frame, the average height of European men surged from 167 cm (5 ft, 5in) to 178 cm (5 ft, 10 in) -- that's a rate of around a millimeter each year and a centimeter each decade.

“Increases in human stature are a key indicator of improvements in the average health of populations," Dr. Timothy J. Hatton, economics professor at the University of Essex in the U.K. and Australian National University in Canberra, said in a written statement.

So what explains the growth?

"The evidence suggests that the improving disease environment, as reflected in the fall in infant mortality, is the single most important factor driving the increase in height," Hatton said in the statement. Another possible reason might be the downward trend in fertility and family sizes, which have previously been linked to height increases, Reuters reported. Higher per capita income, better social services and nutrition may have played a role as well.

Then does this mean how tall you are reflects how healthy you are? Not so fast.

"We can't conclude that shorter men are somehow unhealthier. Like a lot of research, this paper prompts more questions than it set out to answer," Dr. John Middleton of the UK's Faculty of Public Health told BBC News.



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