Norwegians and Scandinavians in general are often assumed to fit a certain stereotype of being tall and handsome with blue eyes and blond hair. While there’s some of us that are like that, Norwegians are all different and unique from each other.
That said, there are some truth to some of the stereotypes. One of these truths are how tall Norwegians are. So, what’s the average height in Norway like?
The average Norwegian adult male is 172.65 cm or 5 feet 7.97 inches tall. The average Norwegian adult woman is 165.56 or 5 feet 5.18 inches tall. This makes Norwegians the 15th tallest country in the world.
So Norwegians are pretty tall, but far from the tallest in the world. That honor goes to The Netherlands where the males are on average 182.53 cm (5 feet 11.86 inches) tall. That’s almost 10 cm taller than Norway’s average!
That said, there are plenty of tall Norwegians. I am personally over 190 cm, and it’s not like I’m unusually tall compared to most people here.
How Norwegians became taller
Norwegians didn’t actually use to be very tall, and we were considerably shorter than Americans in the 1800s at a time when many Norwegians emigrated to the United States. However, this gradually changed over the next 150 years.
The average height in Norway has stabilized since then, and has not changed at all in the last 35 years.
The reason why the average height of Norwegians suddenly skyrocketed after the emigration to the US in the 1800s is simply because of malnutrition. The traditional Norwegian diet didn’t really include all the nutrients people needed to have optimal growth, and lack of vitamins from fruits were likely a big part of this.
And let’s not forget that most people in Norway good enough food to barely survive in this era, and they were never able to eat until they were full. So it’s no wonder that the average height at this time was a lot different than today.
These days most Norwegians have a good diet that includes all the nutrients we need for optimal growth during out childhood and teenage years, so there’s no longer a food shortage to keep us short.
Why Norwegians are pretty tall
Norwegians these days are on average pretty tall, and there are plenty of different factors that lead to the fact that we are pretty tall. Some of them are:
- A good diet with enough nutrients and vitamins. It’s likely that some other countries in the world are still shorter than they could potentially be due to not getting enough food and nutrients during childhood.
- Enough physical exercise during childhood. Research has shown that being outside and physically active during childhood is important for growing tall. I’m not exactly sure how this all works, but it’s common for Norwegian children to spend a lot of time outside and participate in organized sports several times per week.
- Genes that code for tallness. The Norwegian gene pool includes a lot of tall people, which will again lead to children that will inherit genes that allow them to grow tall.
- Hormone levels have on average decreased, which likely has a connection to the height of people. Again, I’m not really sure how exactly this works, but researchers do believe that there is a correlation between lower hormone levels in the population and an increase in average height.
- Norwegians are pretty healthy. The general health of the population is an important factor that is used for predicting how tall the the population will become. And as you can probably guess, Norway has a good health system with free healthcare where most people are pretty healthy. Norway rank very high on life expectancy and very low of child mortality, so this general health is likely to contribute to the tallness.
So there’s not just a single reason why Norwegians are pretty tall. And each of the different factors might not even play a big role in itself, but it does add up when all the different factors cooperate.
It seems unlikely that the average height will change a lot in the future when we consider the fact that it was been completely stable for 35 years, but I guess we just need to wait and see.
Some scientists believe that the change in hormone levels have yet to really come to show in the average height, and that the average height will increase in the next 50 years as the children and teenagers today take a higher portion of the total population size.
Were the Norwegian vikings tall?
Most Norwegians are descendants from the vikings, so it might be easy to assume that vikings were also tall. So how tall were the vikings exactly?
Researchers believed the average height of vikings to be 176 cm for adult males (5 feet 9 inches) and 158 cm for adult women (5 feet 1 inch). This was a lot taller than the average in the Middle Ages, but it’s shorter than today’s average.
The reason why the vikings are believed to have been taller than most other people in the Middle Ages are because they had a decent source of nutrient rich food, and got vitamins and nutrients from both fish, different types of grain, berries and other things they could get their hands on.
In addition, the viking gene pool had a lot of tall people, and foreigners were often amazed by how tall the vikings were. This included 10th-century Arab traveller Ahmad ibn Fadlan, who had one of the earliest written records of vikings.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.