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. And it’s not uncommon to see Norwegian actors play the roles of giant characters (like Kristofer Hivju who played Tormund Giantsbane in Game of Thrones).
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. The tallness of a person or an entire population is determined by a lot of different factors, so it’s not as easy as pointing your finger towards and single thing and say “that’s why Norwegians are tall!”.
However, most scientists agree that the following reasons play a big role in why Norwegians are so tall:
1) A good diet with enough nutrients and vitamins
A good diet with enough nutrients and vitamins is absolutely vital for making sure that humans reach their optimal height.
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. They have the genes needed to grow tall, but malnutrition during childhood stop them from ever reaching their peak height.
Norwegians have good access to nutrients from childbirth and for the rest of their lives. Babies are well-monitored to make sure that they get all the vitamins and nutrients they need, and are regularly measured throughout their lives.
Norwegian food has traditionally included a lot of nutrients as well, especially from fish.
(Yes, I know Norwegian food in ranked as the world’s worst cuisine, but it’s pretty healthy overall though!).
2) Enough physical exercise during childhood
Enough physical exercise during childhood is a big factor that affects how tall people are when they grow up to become adults.
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.
Many researchers believe that this is a big reason why Norwegians are so tall.
Genetics is absolutely the number 1 reason why some people are tall, while others are not. And Norwegians simply have a lot more of the genes that make people tall compared to people from other places in the world.
This reason can actually be traced all the way back to the viking age (we will return to look closer at vikings later on in this article), so this is a big reason for Norwegian’s tallness.
Norway is a pretty homogeneous country with a high proportion of the population having Norwegian ancestry, but it’s currently becoming less and less homogeneous as more people are looking to relocate to Norway to start a new life here. This might actually affect the average height over time, but it’s currently not enough immigration to affect the average height of Norwegians.
As touched upon earlier, genes can really only tell you something about the potential height of someone, and things like nutrition and health can then spurt that potential.
4) Reduced hormone levels
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 relationship between lower hormone levels in the population and an increase in average height.
This reduction in hormones is a fairly new thing, but seem to affect people in first world countries more than in third world countries at the moment. This makes populations like the Norwegians become taller than many other nationalities.
5) Overall helath of the population
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.
6) Low air pollution
Norway has very low air pollution compared to most other countries, which seem to be very important for growth. Children who are exposed to air pollution have a much higher chance of experiencing stunted growth, but this is not really an issue for Norwegians at all.
There is some air pollution in the major cities in Norway (especially Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim) during winter, which is mostly from car fumes. However, Norway is rapidly moving towards electric vehicles, so even this type of air pollution is likely to be a distant memory in the future.
Many different reasons why Norwegians are tall
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.
And let’s not forget that there are lots of micro-factors that play a small role as well.
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. But I guess we will have to wait and find out that as well.
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 height 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.