Examining the stereotype of tall Norwegians: What the data says

Norwegians and Scandinavians, in general, have a reputation for being blonde and tall. This is not new as the 10th-century Arab traveller Ahmad ibn Fadlan is said to have praised Norsemen for their physical appearance and stature.

There is some truth to this, as Norwegians and Scandinavians rank among the tallest 20 people in the world with an average height of about 172.65 cm (5 feet 8 inches).

In this article, we will take a look at how tall the Norwegian population are and explore some factors that are likely to contribute to their height.

How tall are Norwegians?

While Norwegians are not among the tallest of people in the world, Norwegians and Scandinavians rank among the top 20 nations with the tallest inhabitants. 

In Norway, the average height is 172.65 cm (5 feet 8 inches), with men being an average of 180 cm (5 feet 11 inches) and women 167 cm (5 feet, 6 inches).

According to an article on Insider, this makes Norwegians the 17th tallest people in the world. In the same article, all Scandinavian countries ranked among the top 25 nations with the tallest inhabitants, with the Danes being the tallest.

Traditionally, most Norwegian surveys of height have collected their data from measurements conducted on military conscripts.

While Scandinavians are ranked among the tallest people it was not always so. In the 1800s Americans were taller than most Scandinavians, however, this gradually changed over the next 100-150 years.

Today, the average height for most Scandinavians has stabilised. In Norway and Sweden, the average height has not changed in the last 35 years.

Why are Scandinavians so tall?

Scientists believe that our genetic makeup is the greatest determining factor when it comes to height.

However, it is also believed that several factors contribute to a person’s height including nutrition, hormones, physical activity and medical conditions.


Given that all the Scandinavian countries rank among the tallest people in the world, it is likely that Norwegians and Scandinavians have a genetic makeup that is favourable when it comes to height,

A majority of Scandinavians are descendants of Norsemen (Vikings). According to some historical accounts, Norsemen were described as tall. 

10th-century Arab traveller Ahmad ibn Fadlan wrote “I have never seen more perfect physiques than theirs – they are like palm trees, are fair and reddish” after encountering Rus Vikings on his travels to what is likely modern-day Ukraine.


Apart from genes, nutrition can also affect height. While the Scandinavian diets vary, they are relatively similar and likely contribute to the overall height of the population. 

While the Scandinavian diet generally has less fresh fruit and veg than many of the other healthy cuisine. The use of berries, fish, dairy, rye bread and quality-sourced meats that make up the region’s menu ensures its cuisine is low in carbs and high in all the right kinds of fats that make for a healthy diet.


Overall health is also an important factor when it comes to height. With regard to this, all Scandinavian countries rank high in various measures of health. 

All Scandinavian countries routinely rank among the countries with the highest life expectancy and low infant mortality.

The Scandinavian countries also have high-quality and accessible healthcare services. They are also ranked among the happiest people in the world and among the countries with the best work-life balance.


Research suggests that hormone levels also impact overall height. As with most developed countries, overall hormone levels have decreased with time in Scandinavia along with most other western countries. 

While this does not seem to affect height yet, it is unknown whether this will affect the population height going forward.

Physical exercise

Finally, physical exercise is also suggested to contribute to human height. 

Most individuals will reach adult height by the age of 18, therefore, physical exercise during childhood and adolescence is likely to play a bigger role when it comes to an individual’s height.

All the Scandinavian countries rank relatively high in terms of physical activity. More importantly, it is very common for both boys and girls to participate in team sports and sporting activities during their youth. 

This becomes evident as they rank in the bottom half with regard to the percentages of child obesity for both boys and girls.

Photo of author


Erik is the creator and editor of Planet Norway. Born in Trondheim and currently living in Oslo, Erik knows the ins and outs of Norwegian History, society, and culture. His idea for starting planet Norway came about when helping his foreign fiance to settle in Norway.