People are Bigger Now 2004-09-02Posted by clype in Health, Statistics.
The hourglass figure typified by curvaceous Fifties stars such as Ms.Elizabeth Taylor and Ms.Sophia Loren is, officially, a thing of the past.
A major study of body sizes shows that the average British female waist now measures almost 865mm — a shocking 165mm less waspish and more sluggish than their Fifties counterparts, whose nipped-in little skelf-like middles were an average 700mm in 1951.
Today’s women are also taller, with a bigger bust and hips, according to ‘The National Sizing Survey’, which looked at the body shapes of 11 000 women and men, making it the biggest survey of its kind in 50 years. The results confirm what health experts already know about the changing shape of Britain, and what they suspect is the case in other western nations.
That the population is getting fatter and lazier — 38 per cent of women and 44 per cent of men are now either overweight or obese — came as no surprise to the researchers. But what they did not expect was the drastic shape change in women’s figures over the years.
‘There is a very definite change in women’s shapes, from an hourglass figure to a much more tubular or apple shape’, said Professor Mr.Philip Treleaven, from University College, London, who led the research.
‘We found that hips were 40mm bigger, as were busts, but, when we got to the waists and found 165mm difference, it was, “Wow”; everyone, men and women, has a belly now’.
Back in 1951, during the era of post-war food rationing, a typical woman measured 1 600mm tall, had a 940mm bust, a 700mm waist, 990mm hips and weighed 61.5kg.
Today, a typical British woman would weigh in at 65kg, be 1 640mm tall, and carry an extra 40mm around the bust and hips and 165mm around the middle.
But it isn’t only women who have bulked up in the past 50 years… While the survey, which mirrored one carried out in 1951, was unable to compare directly men’s vital statistics, it did find, using body mass index (BMI), a measurement relating to weight and height, that more men than women were obese or overweight.
The researchers concluded that the average British man is also larger. He is 1 765mm tall, has a 1 070mm chest, 940mm waist, 1 030mm hips and weighs 79kg.
Mr.Treleaven puts the extra weight down to the sedentary lifestyle and junk food that was unheard of 50 years ago.
Ms.Catherine Hankey, a nutrition lecturer at Glasgow University, said that bigger waists was worrying for health reasons, because it could mean more cases of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Every 10mm around the waist counted for an extra kilogram or two.
Compared with the 50 per cent of women and 48 per cent of men who were of normal weight, the survey found that 12 per cent of women and 6 per cent of men were underweight.
The SizeUK survey, carried out by University College London, the London College of Fashion and supported by retailers, took more than 1.5 million measurements from 11 000 people using state-of-the-art 3D bodyscanners in years 2001 and 2002. The researchers were then able to compare the results with the last major national sizing survey carried out on women in the 1950s, which used the traditional tape measure.
- There was some comfort for British women; the study found that while they have become heavier in the past 50 years, they still have some way to go to catch up with their U.S. American counterparts.The SizeUSA study found the average weight of a U.S. American woman was 70.5kg, compared with 65kg in the UK. But British women were taller, on average — 1 640mm compared to 1 600mm.
The study was a collaboration between the Department of Trade and Industry, leading British retailers and academics. Its results are likely to help retailers and clothes manufacturers, who have already taken notice of the growth in body size in recent years. Ms.Elizabeth Fox, the assistant director of the British Clothing Industry Association, said:
‘It is going to give retailers much better data on the size and shape of their existing and potential customers’.
Ms.Fox said the key issue was the different combination of measurements people could have, mostly depending on age. This meant a teenager who was a size 12 would still have varying measurements with a woman in her fifties who was also a size 12. Ms.Fox also revealed the effect vanity had on the sizing in stores.
‘It is accepted that what used to be a size 14 is now a size 12, and what was a size 16 is now a 14. That is particularly because women in Britain tend to be very vain and want to buy a size 12 and not a 14, or a 14 and not a 16′.
Four years ago, Marks & Spencer brought in a new women’s size 12 that was the same as the size 14. Many retailers followed, but few made a big deal out of it, for fear of embarrassing their customers. Ms.Fox said:
‘There is now generally more food and people take less exercise than they used to. But also in the last 30 years bra sizes have changed because of the contraceptive pill which has led to larger cup sizes’.
Until now, retailers have had to rely on their own limited information gleaned from measuring the waists, chests, inside legs and other standard dimensions of their customers. Clothing sizes have varied substantially between retailers and even within a shop for garments made in different factories. Major companies which supported the research included House of Fraser, John Lewis, Topshop, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer. Ms.Liza Colbeck, from House of Fraser, said the study provided a
‘very accurate and useful database’ for retailers.
‘It will help us make sure that customers can find their size in stores. We set out to understand and collect accurate sizing of men and women in the UK and we have done that’, she said.
The survey is expected to aid the health and medical community in efforts to tackle obesity.
- Download the SizeUK Survey (PDF): www.humanics-es.com/uk_natl_anthro_sizing_info.pdf
- A National Strategy for the UK Textile and Clothing Industry … The original trade association and union… http://www.dti.gov.uk/support/textile.pdf
- http://www.asbci.co.uk/ (Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry)
- British Clothing Industry Association: 5 Portland Pl., London, England, W1B 1PW, UK. Tel: (0207) 636 7788 Fax: (0207) 636 7515 Internet: URL not known
- For Health, Size Does Matter 2004-11-11