April 21, 2021

What Is the Average Height for Women?

The short answer from a primary care specialist

Family measures mom's height

Q: What is the average height for an adult woman and why does it matter?

How tall you are is just one of several factors that give healthcare providers a complete picture of your health. For example, if you’re shorter than average, your health goals will differ from someone who’s a bit taller than average.

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And to have a good idea of where you fall in the range of heights, it’s good to know the average height for women across the country.

According to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average height among all American women, age 20 and up, is 5 foot 4 inches tall. The study also followed trends in weight, waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) from 1999 through 2016.

Knowing the average height and where yours falls relative to that are important data points for you and your healthcare provider to know. While the study found that there was no real change in height for most demographics between 1999 and 2016 (both women and men), there were increases in both average weight and body mass index (BMI).

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Your BMI is a formula that uses your height and weight to calculate your weight per meter of your body surface, measured in kilograms per meters squared. This formula gives a standardized measurement that’s applicable to all adults, even as heights, weights and body types differ.

The BMI scale for adults is:

  • Under 18: Underweight.
  • 18-25: Normal.
  • > 25-30: Having overweight.
  • > 30-40: Having obesity.
  • Above 40: Class III obesity (formerly called morbidly obese).

It’s important to remember, though, that this number is only an estimate. Each person’s body is unique, with different factors that can skew the BMI a bit (like muscle mass) and requires its own context for those healthy lifestyle decisions. If your height is below or above that national average, that will, in turn, change your target BMI.

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Still, it’s a great starting off point for you and your healthcare provider to figure out what changes you need to make in your life for better overall health and how your height factors into it.

– Internal Medicine specialist, Janet Morgan, MD

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