What Is Considered Tall in Malaysia?

Average height can vary dramatically between different countries and regions of the world. Personally, I found when I moved from the U.S. to Southeast Asia, a lot more people viewed me as “tall” in SE Asia.

Today, let’s take a detailed look at height in Malaysia and what is generally considered “tall” in Malaysia. Would you be considered tall there?

The average height in Malaysia is 5’6″ (168 cm) for men and 5’2″ (157 cm) for women. Malaysia’s population is relatively short, although it’s not the shortest in Asia. An average American man at 5’9″ (175 cm) would be taller than ~96% of Malaysian people.

Below, I’ll share height comparison tables, so you can see how you compare to Malaysian people. I’ll also discuss the reasons why Malaysian people are relatively short.

Note: This article discusses the height of Malaysian people of all ethnicities, not only Malay people.

Average Height in Malaysia

The average man in Malaysia is 5’6″ (168 cm), and the average woman is 5’2″ (157 cm). (source)

Here are some comparisons that will help give that context:

  • On average, Malaysian men are 9 cm (3.5″) shorter than men from the U.S., 10 cm (3.9″) shorter than men from Canada and the U.K., and 11 cm (4.3″) shorter than men from Australia.
  • On average, Malaysian women are 6 cm (2.4″) shorter than women from the U.S., 7 cm (2.8″) shorter than women from the U.K., and 8 cm (3.1″) shorter than women from Canada and Australia.

Below, we’ll look at how Malaysia compares to other Asian countries for height, as well. But next, let’s look at the distribution of different heights within Malaysia.

Height Comparison Tables

Have you wondered how your height would compare to Malaysian men and women? You can use the following two tables to check.

First, let’s check how your height compares to Malaysian men. (Note: These tables assume you’re comparing your height to an adult who is around 30 years old.)

Your HeightYou Are Taller Than ____% of Malaysian Men.
4’10” (147 cm)0.2%
4’11” (150 cm)0.6%
5’0″ (152 cm)2%
5’1″ (155 cm)4%
5’2″ (157 cm)9%
5’3″ (160 cm)17%
5’4″ (163 cm)28%
5’5″ (165 cm)43%
5’6″ (168 cm)58%
5’7″ (170 cm)73%
5’8″ (173 cm)84%
5’9″ (175 cm)92%
5’10” (178 cm)96%
5’11” (180 cm)99%
6’0″ (183 cm)99.5%
6’1″ (185 cm)99.9%
6’2″+ (188 cm)~100%
How does your height compare to Malaysian men? (source)

Now, let’s see how your height compares to Malaysian women:

Your HeightYou Are Taller Than ____% of Malaysian Women.
4’6″ (137 cm)0.2%
4’7″ (140 cm)0.7%
4’8″ (142 cm)2%
4’9″ (145 cm)5%
4’10” (147 cm)11%
4’11” (150 cm)21%
5’0″ (152 cm)35%
5’1″ (155 cm)52%
5’2″ (157 cm)68%
5’3″ (160 cm)81%
5’4″ (163 cm)90%
5’5″ (165 cm)96%
5’6″ (168 cm)98%
5’7″ (170 cm)99.5%
5’8″ (173 cm)99.9%
5’9″+ (175 cm)~100%
How does your height compare to Malaysian women? (source)

Why Are Malaysian People Short?

The two biggest factors that determine your height are genetics and nutrition. It is thought that genetics account for 60% to 80% of your height, while nutrition affects the other 20% to 40%. (source)

So, taking those factors into account, how can we explain the height of Malaysian people?

It’s been suggested by a writer from Discover Magazine that Asian populations may be shorter due to the HMGA2 gene. The “short” variant of this gene appears to be more common in East Asia, compared to Africa and Europe.

So that may explain at least part of the genetic side of things. I also found this Stanford article about how evolution favored shorter bones in some populations.

But nutrition also seems to play a big role—and this is typically highlighted in discussions of height in Malaysia.

Are Malaysian People Getting Taller?

Over the past century, many Asian populations have grown much taller. Japan, South Korea, and many other countries have had major increases in average heights.

Even right next door in Thailand, the official height standards for Thai children, men, and women have had to be increased by the Thai government in recent years. (source)

But the same is not really true in Malaysia. In fact, there is even some concern that Malaysian people are growing smaller over time. Statistics show that:

  • About 1 in 12 Malaysian children (aged 10 to 17) are “stunted” (abnormally short for their age). These children are 6 to 7 cm shorter than the World Health Organization’s child growth standards.
  • About 21% of kids under five years old in Malaysia are stunted. So, the statistics are even worse for younger kids. (source)

Malnutrition seems to be one of the main culprits for this stunting. However, experts believe that genetics and disrupted sleep cycles could also play a role. (source)

Specifically, these nutritional problems are seen as potentially at fault:

  • Lack of necessary nutrients (protein, calcium, etc)
  • Not eating enoughvegetables
  • Eating too much junk food
  • Irregular eating times (such as skipping breakfast)

Height in Malaysia vs Other Asian Countries

Now let’s take a look at how Malaysia fits in with several other Southeast Asian and East Asian countries for height:

CountryFemale Avg. HeightMale Avg. Height
Cambodia5’1″ (154 cm)5’5″ (165 cm)
China5’4″ (163 cm)5’9″ (175 cm)
Indonesia5’1″ (154 cm)5’5″ (166 cm)
Japan5’2″ (158 cm)5’8″ (172 cm)
Malaysia5’2″ (157 cm)5’6″ (168 cm)
Philippines5’1″ (154 cm)5’5″ (165 cm)
Singapore5’3″ (161 cm)5’8″ (173 cm)
South Korea5’4″ (163 cm)5’9″ (175 cm)
Taiwan5’3″ (160 cm)5’8″ (173 cm)
Thailand5’3″ (159 cm)5’7″ (171 cm)
Vietnam5’2″ (158 cm)5’6″ (168 cm)
Average Heights in Asia by Country. (Source)

As you can see, the shortest countries listed here are Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Meanwhile, the tallest are South Korea and China.

Malaysia fits in somewhere in the middle, but a bit closer to the short end of the spectrum. Overall, Malaysia has very similar average heights as Vietnam.

In the end, what counts as “tall” is subjective. That said, a man over 6 feet tall (183 cm) would certainly be viewed as tall by most people in Malaysia—and the same could be said for a woman over 5’7″ (171 cm).