What is Anthropometry?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Measurements included in anthropometry may include the circumference of the waist.
Measurements included in anthropometry may include the circumference of the waist.

The word anthropometry comes from the Greek words anthropos, meaning “man,” and metron, meaning “measure.” Anthropometry is a branch of the social science of anthropology dealing specifically with measuring the human body. Such a study can be undertaken to understand the relative proportions of the body under various conditions, as well as to understand the range that is possible for human beings. The field is also referred to as “anthropometric measurement.”

Anthropometry data is collected to assist in understanding the relationship between obesity and disease.
Anthropometry data is collected to assist in understanding the relationship between obesity and disease.

The measurements included in anthropometry range from the large-scale to the small, and may involve static and dynamic measurements. Standard measurements may include weight; standing and sitting height; the length of the upper arm and leg; the circumference of the arm, waist, hip, and thigh; the breadth of the body at several points, and skinfold measurements. These measurements are taken with the body in specified positions so that they may be compared across time and from person to person.

Anthropometry data can help researchers predict who has an increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular problems.
Anthropometry data can help researchers predict who has an increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular problems.

Anthropometry data is collected for a variety of reasons. It can assist in the study of the relationship between diet, nutrition, and health. It can assist in understanding the relationship between obesity and disease and in the prediction of who may be at risk for certain diseases, such as adult-onset diabetes mellitus, arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, gallstones, and hypertension. Data is also used to revise the child growth charts that pediatricians use to determine if children’s height and weight are within the normal range.

Medical records typically include anthropometric information.
Medical records typically include anthropometric information.

Anthropometry is an element in the Fels Longitudinal Study, a project of the Fels Research Institute that began in 1929. The study focuses on the areas of physical growth and maturation, as well as body composition and feature examinations that continue from birth through adulthood. Fels participants are measured according to a testing schedule that focuses on developmental stages and major changes.

Gallstones are just one ailment that anthropometry can help us understand.
Gallstones are just one ailment that anthropometry can help us understand.

Anthropometry also has other applications, such as in ergonomic workplace design. It uses static, or structural, anthropometry measurements and dynamic, or functional, anthropometry measurements in the design of equipment and furnishings that are likely to be usable by the most people and adjustable, if the characteristics of the user are too broad or cannot be easily specified.

Skin is pinched between the thumb and forefinger when taking a skinfold measurement.
Skin is pinched between the thumb and forefinger when taking a skinfold measurement.

Ergonomic solutions may also take into account such information as gender differences and body morphology, and combine this information with anthropometric measurements in coming up with designs. The effects of changing conditions such as time of day, age, and pregnancy may also be taken into account. Wheelchair anthropometrics is a specialized subfield.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Discussion Comments

Clairdelune

I've always wondered how ergonomic office furniture is designed. It sounds like first the services of an anthropometrist is needed to do measurements of the different parts of the body in different positions.

Then a designer uses these measurements of average men and women to make chairs, desks, and other items to put the least stress on body parts.

Esther11

That's cool about the Fels study. Such a long-term study in anthropometry must be giving research scientists lots of information about changes in the size of humans in the last few decades and many other areas.

This data should help to explain what has made the height and size of humans to increase. Will humans continue to grow taller each generation?

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    • Measurements included in anthropometry may include the circumference of the waist.
      Measurements included in anthropometry may include the circumference of the waist.
    • Anthropometry data is collected to assist in understanding the relationship between obesity and disease.
      Anthropometry data is collected to assist in understanding the relationship between obesity and disease.
    • Anthropometry data can help researchers predict who has an increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular problems.
      Anthropometry data can help researchers predict who has an increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular problems.
    • Medical records typically include anthropometric information.
      Medical records typically include anthropometric information.
    • Gallstones are just one ailment that anthropometry can help us understand.
      Gallstones are just one ailment that anthropometry can help us understand.
    • Skin is pinched between the thumb and forefinger when taking a skinfold measurement.
      Skin is pinched between the thumb and forefinger when taking a skinfold measurement.
    • Anthropometry can help predict the likelihood of developing gallstones in the obese.
      Anthropometry can help predict the likelihood of developing gallstones in the obese.