South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Arm-associated measurements as estimates of true height in black and white young adults of both genders: an exploratory study, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Christen R. Lahner, Susanna M. Kassier, Frederick J. Veldman


Objective: To determine the accuracy of arm-associated anthropometric measurements as estimates of true height.

Design: This was a cross-sectional descriptive survey.

Setting: The setting was Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Subjects: The study population included a convenience sample (n = 200) of young adults aged 18 to 24 years, which included an equal number (n = 50) of white males and females, and black males and females.

Outcome measures: The following measurements were taken in accordance with international standards for anthropometric kinanthropometry: (i) stretch stature; (ii) armspan; (iii) half-armspan; and (iv) demi-span. Adjustment equations used to convert arm-associated measurements to true height included that of the World Health Organization equation, half-armspan multiplied by two and, the demi-span equation.

Results: None of the existing height estimation equations accurately predicted true height in the study sample. Significant differences in the accuracy of estimates were also measured between race groups (p < 0.001) and for gender (p < 0.001). In black males the demi-span male-specific equation provided results that did not differ from true height, as was also the case for armspan in white males. Black females and white females had identical outcomes where all height estimates differed significantly from true height.

Conclusion: Findings indicate the need for gender and race-specific height estimation methods. It would seem that armspan is suitable for use in white males and demi-span male equation suitable for use in black males. None of the height estimation methods accurately predicted true height in females.

Keywords: anthropometry, arm-associated measurements, height estimates, population-specific methodology, stretch stature
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