Protocol - Height - Standing Height

Add to Toolkit

Protocol Name from Source:

2007 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) Anthropometry Procedures Manual


Publicly available


Standing height is measured from the top of the participant’s head to his or her heels. This measure is taken among participants, usually older than 2 years of age, who are able to stand unassisted.

The Anthropometrics Expert Review Panel suggests that the measurements be taken to the nearest 0.1 cm.


Standing Height, Recumbent Length, and Knee Height protocols are part of an examination study. Self-Reported Height may be part of a personal or self-administered interview.

Note: Detailed videos illustrating the procedure can be found on the NHANES website ([link[www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes/nhanes3/anthropometric_videos.htm|http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes/nhanes3/anthropometric_videos.htm]])

Standing Height Protocol

Ask the participant to remove hair ornaments, jewelry, buns, or braids from the top of the head that interfere with the measurement. Shoes should be removed.

Ask the participant to stand erect against the backboard with the body weight evenly distributed and both feet flat on the stadiometer platform (Exhibit 1). The participant’s feet should be positioned with the heels together and toes pointed slightly outward at approximately a 60 degree angle. Check to be sure that the back of the head, shoulder blades, buttocks, and heels make contact with the backboard of the stadiometer.

NOTE: Depending on the overall body conformation of the individual, all four contact points - head, shoulders, buttocks, and heels - may or may not touch the stadiometer backboard (Exhibit 2). For example, elderly survey participants may have kyphosis, a forward curvature of the spine that appears as a hump at the upper back. In particular, dowager’s hump is a form of kyphosis that creates a hump at the back of the neck. Additionally, some overweight survey participants cannot stand straight while touching all four contact points to the backboard. In such instances it is important to obtain the best measurement possible according to the protocol.

Stature measurements are made with the head aligned in the Frankfort horizontal plane (Exhibit 2). The head is in the Frankfort plane when the horizontal line from the ear canal to the lower border of the orbit of the eye is parallel to the floor and perpendicular to the vertical backboard (see Exhibit 2). Many people will assume this position naturally, but for some survey participants the examiner may need to gently tilt the head up or down to achieve the proper alignment. Instruct the survey participant to look straight ahead.

If you cannot position the participant such that his or her trunk remains vertical above the waist, that the arms and shoulders are relaxed, and that the head is positioned in the Frankfort plane, be sure to note this in the measurement record. This information might be useful to interpret study findings. In the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study 2007-08, a comment described as "Not Straight" is noted in the stature record.

Once positioned, lower the stadiometer headpiece so that it rests firmly on top of the participant’s head, with sufficient pressure to compress the hair. Instruct the survey participant to stand as tall as possible, take a deep breath, and hold this position. The act of taking a deep breath helps straighten the spine to yield a more consistent and reproducible stature measurement. Notice that the inhalation will cause the headpiece to rise slightly.

As soon as the participant inhales, record the measurement. After recording the measurement, tell the participant to relax. Once the measurement is taken, raise the stadiometer headpiece and have the participant step away from the stadiometer.

Adjustments for shoes and hair: When participants cannot remove hair braids, buns, and headwear that interferes with the stature measurement, measure the distance from the scalp to the top of the hair with a small ruler to the nearest 0.1 cm. If shoes are worn, measure the height of the shoe heel to the nearest 0.1 cm. A corrected height value can be calculated by subtracting these distances from the original stature measurement, thus yielding an adjusted stature value.


Exhibit 1. Stadiometer with a fixed length backboard and an adjustable headpiece


Exhibit 2. Body Orientation for Standing Height Measurement and Frankfort Horizontal Plane

Personnel and Training Required

Technicians should be trained in the basic techniques of anthropometric measurements and specifically in using a stadiometer and positioning participants into the Frankfort plane position.

Equipment Needs

Stadiometer with a fixed-length backboard and an adjustable head piece


Requirement CategoryRequired
Average time of greater than 15 minutes in an unaffected individualNo
Major equipmentNo
Specialized requirements for biospecimen collectionNo
Specialized trainingNo

Mode of Administration


Life Stage:

Toddler, Child, Adolescent, Adult, Senior

Specific Instructions:

Three measurement protocols (Standing Height, Recumbent Height, and Knee Height) accommodate various groups of participants. Self-Reported Height should be used as a last resort only. Several overarching, critical issues for high-quality data collection of anthropometric measures that optimize the data in gene-environment etiologic research include (1) the need for training (and retraining) of study staff in anthropometric data collection; (2) duplicate collection of measurements, especially under field conditions; (3) use of more than one person for proper collection of measurements where required; (4) accurate recording of the protocols and the measurement units of data collection; and (5) use of required and properly calibrated equipment.

The notion of recommending replicate measurements comes from the reduction in random errors of measurement and accompanying improved measurement reliability when the mean of multiple measurements is used rather than the a single measurement. This improvement in measurement reliability, however, depends on the reliability of a single measurement in the hands of the data collectors in a particular study (Himes, 1989). For example, if a measure such as standing height in a given study has a measurement reliability of 0.95 (expressed as an intraclass correlation coefficient), taking a second measurement and using the mean of the two measurements in analyses will improve the reliability to only 0.97, yielding only a 2% reduction in error variance for the additional effort. If, in the same study, the reliability of a single triceps skinfold measurement was 0.85, using the mean, including a replicate measurement, would raise the reliability to 0.92 and yield a 7% reduction in error variance, more than a three-fold improvement compared with recumbent length. Because the benefits of taking replicate measurements are so closely linked with the existing measurement reliability, it is recommended that as a part of the training of those who will be collecting anthropometry data, a reliability study be conducted that will yield measurement reliability estimates for the data collectors, protocols, settings, and participants involved in that particular study (Himes, 1989). If the measurement reliability for a single measurement is greater than or equal to 0.95, the recommendation is that replicate measurement are not necessary and will yield little practical benefit. If the measurement reliability is less than 0.95, the recommendation is to include replicate measurements as prescribed.

If replicate measurements are indicated because of relatively low reliability, a second measurement should be taken, including repositioning the participant. A third measurement should be taken if the first two measurements differ by more than 1.0 cm. If it is necessary to take a third measurement, the two closest measurements are averaged. Should the third measurement fall equally between the first two measurements, all three should be averaged.

Research Domain Information

Release Date:

October 1, 2015


Height is the distance from the top of the participant’s head to the heels of his or her feet (i.e., the vertical length).


Height or stature is used to assess body size and bone length. Recumbent length is used to measure length of infants, and knee height may be used to estimate height when stature cannot be measured in older adults.

Selection Rationale

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007-2008 protocols were selected as best practice methodology and are the most widely used protocols to assess height.


English, Spanish


Common Data Elements (CDE)Person Height Value2179643CDE Browser
Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC)PhenX - standing height62294-4LOINC

Process and Review

The [link[phenx.org/node/62|Expert Review Panel #1]] reviewed the measures in the Anthropometrics, Diabetes, Physical Activity and Physical Fitness, and Nutrition and Dietary Supplements domains.

Guidance from the ERP includes:

• Added replicate measure language

• Changed unit of measurement

Back-compatible: no changes to Data Dictionary

Previous version in Toolkit archive ([link[www.phenxtoolkit.org/index.php?pageLink=browse.archive.protocols&id=20000|link]])


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2007). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) Anthropometry Procedures Manual. Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Certification for the Spanish translation can be found here.

General References

Himes, J. H. (1989). Reliability of anthropometric methods and replicate measurements. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 79, 77-80.

Protocol ID:



Export Variables
Variable NameVariable IDVariable DescriptionVersiondbGaP Mapping
PX020703_Standing_Height_1_FeetsPX020703010100Standing Height measured in centimeter, first measurement4N/A
PX020703_Standing_Height_1_InchesPX020703010200Standing Height measured in centimeter, first measurement4N/A
PX020703_Standing_Height_1_MetersPX020703010300Standing Height measured in centimeter, first measurement4N/A
PX020703_Standing_Height_2_FeetsPX020703020100Standing Height measured in centimeter, secondmeasurement4N/A
PX020703_Standing_Height_2_InchesPX020703020200Standing Height measured in centimeter, secondmeasurement4N/A
PX020703_Standing_Height_2_MetersPX020703020300Standing Height measured in centimeter, secondmeasurement4N/A
PX020703_Standing_Height_3_FeetsPX020703030100Standing Height measured in centimeter, third measurement4N/A
PX020703_Standing_Height_3_InchesPX020703030200Standing Height measured in centimeter, third measurement4N/A
PX020703_Standing_Height_3_MetersPX020703030300Standing Height measured in centimeter, third measurement4N/A
PX020703_Standing_Height_Average_FeetsPX020703040100Standing Height measured in centimeter, average4N/A
PX020703_Standing_Height_Average_InchesPX020703040200Standing Height measured in centimeter, average4N/A
PX020703_Standing_Height_Average_MetersPX020703040300Standing Height measured in centimeter, average4N/A