J Epidemiol Community Health 66:75-80 doi:10.1136/jech.2010.113043
  • Research report

Secular changes and predictors of adult height for 86 105 male and female members of the Thai Cohort Study born between 1940 and 1990

Open Access
  1. the Thai Cohort Study Team
  1. 1School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  2. 2National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, ANU College of Medicine and Health Sciences, the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
  3. 3Thai Health-Risk Transition Study, School of Human Ecology, Sukhothai, Thammathirat Open University, Nonthaburi, Thailand
  1. Correspondence to Dr Susan Jordan, School of Population Health, the University of Queensland, Public Health Building, Herston Road, Herston Qld 4006, Australia; s.jordan{at}
  • Accepted 6 July 2010
  • Published Online First 30 August 2010


Background Height trends can be useful indicators of population health but, despite Thailand's rapid socioeconomic development since the 1950s, few studies have examined accompanying secular changes in adult height or the effects of the transition on the heights of rural versus urban populations. This study therefore sought to document average heights in different age groups of rural and urban Thais and to investigate factors associated with attained height.

Methods Data from 86 105 Thai Cohort Study participants was used to estimate mean heights for men and women in different birth year groups. Simple regression was used to calculate the change in height per decade of birth year among those based in rural or urban locations as children. Multiple linear regression was used to investigate effects of other childhood factors on height.

Results Overall, average heights were found to have increased by approximately 1 cm per decade in those born between 1940 and 1990. However, the rate of increase was 0.4–0.5 cm per decade greater among urban-based Thais compared with those from the countryside. Parental education levels, household assets, birth size, sibling number, birth rank and region of residence were also significantly associated with adult height.

Conclusions These data suggest a marked secular increase in Thai heights in the second half of the 20th century probably reflecting improved childhood health and nutrition over this time. Rural-born Thais, who benefited to a lesser extent from the changes, may face future health challenges with greater risks of, among other things, obesity and its health consequences.


  • The Thai Cohort Study team consists of:

    Thailand: Jaruwan Chokhanapitak, Chaiyun Churewong, Suttanit Hounthasarn, Suwanee Khamman, Daoruang Pandee, Suttinan Pangsap, Tippawan Prapamontol, Janya Puengson, Yodyiam Sangrattanakul, Sam-ang Seubsman, Boonchai Somboonsook, Nintita Sripaiboonkij, Pathumvadee Somsamai, Duangkae Vilainerun, Wanee Wimonwattanaphan.

    Australia: Chris Bain, Emily Banks, Cathy Banwell, Bruce Caldwell, Gordon Carmichael, Tarie Dellora, Jane Dixon, Sharon Friel, David Harley, Matthew Kelly, Tord Kjellstrom, Lynette Lim, Anthony McMichael, Tanya Mark, Adrian Sleigh, Lyndall Strazdins.

  • Funding This study was supported by the International Collaborative Research Grants Scheme with joint grants from the Wellcome Trust UK (WT071587MA) and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (268055). SJ is supported by a Postdoctoral Public Health Training Fellowship from the Australian NHMRC.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was obtained from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University Research and Development Institute (protocol 0522/10) and the Australian National University Human Research Ethics Committee (protocol 2004344).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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