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Software for Statistics of 3-D Human Body Forms

Anthropometry is the standardized measurement method for the human body so that the measurements taken by different measurers are comparable.

Secular change in Japan

The "secular change" refers to the phenomenon that the physical characteristics of the human body changes in a long period of time compared to the human longevity. The most well observed secular change is that of the stature. In many countries in the world, stature has been increasing in last 100 years.

Figure 1 shows the changes in the mean stature of adult male Japanese in Kanto region from Jomon Period (until about 300 BC) to present. The mean stature decreased since the Kofun period (250 AD to 538 AD), and was the lowest at the end of Edo period (1603 - 1867). Since then, it increased very rapidly.

The rapid secular changes have also been observed in European countries, and there is evidence that the secular change has ceased in the Netherlands and North European countries.

Since the pattern of secular change in stature follows that of environmental factors relating to the nutritional status, the main cause is considered to be environmental rather than genetic.

Figure 1. Secular change in the stature of adult male Japanese
Figure 1: Secular change in the stature of adult male Japanese

Period of large, inter-generation differences

Figure 2 shows the relation between the birth year and the mean stature at 20 years of age. The mean stature of Japanese has increased more than 10cm in the last 100 years. The rate of increase was especially high for the generation born in the 1940s and became very low for the generation born in the 1970s.

The inter-generation differences in stature are partly due to aging, but the older generation was shorter than the younger generation even when they were young adults. At present, shorter women born in the 1920s and taller men born in the 1980s live together, and the individual differences in height are very large.

Figure 2.  Relation between the year of birth and average stature
Figure 2: Relation between the year of birth and average stature at 20 years of age based on Japanese government statistics.

Japanese data measured in the 1990s

If you use the anthropometric data for designing purposes, the data must represent your target population. If the data you have was measured several decades ago, it may not represent the young adults at present due to the rapid secular change in height.

Information on available anthropometric data for Japan and other countries can be obtained from the following page.

>>Human Body Properties Database

Measurement Methods of Body Dimensions

In anthropometry special instruments designed to measure the human body are used. With 1mm pitch scale, Martin-type instruments are made to conveniently measure various human body parts.

As of the end of 2004, the measurements taken by a 3-D human body scanner do not necessarily match with those obtained by manual measurement. Measurements taken by 3-D scanners should not be regarded as equivalent to ones taken by traditional methods, unless their validity is properly evaluated.


The following manufacturers are offering measurement systems for measuring human body dimensions. We recommend checking and trying actual instruments, plus considering price and usability before purchasing.

Measurement Accuracy

For human body measurements manually taken by an anthropometrist, reproducibility means how much measurement values differ when the same measurer measures the same subject twice. The measurement accuracy of 3-D shape scanners depends on the size of the measurement space and camera resolution as well as the detection method of markers placed on landmarks or autolandmarking method. For the reproducibility and accuracy of the measurement data taken by experienced anthropometrists the following references are available:

Textbooks on Anthropometry

Representativeness of Samples and National Data

When conducting an anthropometric survey, implementing a complete count survey on a target group is impossible. Random sampling is also impossible, in practice.

In order to decide if the subject group of the survey appropriately represents the estimated user group, it is compared against a random sampling of data from Japanese people of a corresponding age. Such information is available in the Report of the Physical Fitness Test by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT) (available at MEXT library), and also in the Reports of The National Nutrition Survey in Japan (published annually) by Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan.

Statistical data of Japanese body size by Japanese Government

(1) Reports of the School Health Survey(ISBN4-17-153076-8 C0037)

The survey has been conduced annualy, and the report is published annualy by the Ministry of Education,Culture, Sports, Science and Technology since 1900.
Measuement items:
Height, weight, chest circumference (until 1994), and sitting height
Age range of the subjects:
5-17 years (1971-)

(2) Reports of the National Nutritional Survey (ISBN4-8041-0961-7 3077)

The survey is conducted annualy, and the report is published annualy by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare since 1947.
Measuement items:
Height, weight, triceps skinfold thickness, and subscapular skinfold thickness
Age range of the subjects:

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