About the "Metropolitan Life" tables of height and weight.

By Steven B. Halls, MD

In 1943, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company introduced their standard height-weight tables for men and women. The tables were revised slightly in 1983. They were called "desirable" weights, which would indicate those persons with the lowest mortality rates4. However, the phrase "ideal weight5" gradually became associated with these tables in common usage, even though the word "ideal" was not specifically published with the tables.

Height & Weight Table For Women1

Height
Feet Inches
Small
Frame
Medium
Frame
Large
Frame
4' 10"102-111109-121118-131
4' 11"103-113111-123120-134
5' 0" 104-115113-126122-137
5' 1"106-118115-129125-140
5' 2"108-121118-132128-143
5' 3"111-124121-135131-147
5' 4"114-127124-138134-151
5' 5"117-130127-141137-155
5' 6"120-133130-144140-159
5' 7"123-136133-147143-163
5' 8"126-139136-150146-167
5' 9"129-142139-153149-170
5' 10"132-145142-156152-173
5' 11"135-148145-159155-176
6' 0"138-151148-162158-179

Weights at ages 25-59 based on lowest mortality. Weight in pounds according to frame (in indoor clothing weighing 3 lbs.; shoes with 1" heels)



Height & Weight Table For Men2

Height
Feet Inches
Small
Frame
Medium
Frame
Large
Frame
5' 2"128-134131-141138-150
5' 3"130-136133-143140-153
5'' 4"132-138135-145142-156
5' 5"134-140137-148144-160
5' 6"136-142139-151146-164
5' 7"138-145142-154149-168
5' 8"140-148145-157152-172
5' 9"142-151148-160155-176
5' 10"144-154151-163158-180
5' 11"146-157154-166161-184
6' 0"149-160157-170164-188
6' 1"152-164160-174168-192
6' 2"155-168164-178172-197
6' 3"158-172167-182176-202
6' 4"162-176171-187181-207

Weights at ages 25-59 based on lowest mortality. Weight in pounds according to frame (in indoor clothing weighing 5 lbs.; shoes with 1" heels)

What is Frame Size?

The Met Life website gives the following instructions3 to estimate frame size:

"Bend forearm upward at a 90 degree angle. Keep fingers straight and turn the inside of your wrist toward your body. Place thumb and index finger of other hand on the two prominent bones on either side of the elbow. Measure space between your fingers on a ruler.(A physician would use a caliper.) Compare with tables below listing elbow measurements for medium-framed men and women. Measurements lower than those listed indicate small frame. Higher measurements indicate large frame."

ELBOW MEASUREMENTS FOR MEDIUM FRAME
Height in 1" heels Elbow Height in 1" heels Elbow
Men Breadth Women Breadth
5'2"-5'3" 21/2"-27/8" 4'10"-4'11" 21/4"-21/2"
5'4"-5'7" 25/8"-27/8" 5'0"-5'3" 21/4"-21/2"
5'8"-5'11" 23/4"-3" 5'4"-5'7" 23/8"-25/8"
6'0"-6'3" 23/4"-31/8" 5'8"-5'11" 23/8"-25/8"
6'4" 27/8"-31/4" 6'0" 21/2"-23/4"

Credit should be given to the Med Life table creators for attempting to use "frame size" as a way to compensate for the differences between peoples body shapes and skeletal muscle mass. In theory, elbow-width or wrist-width does correlate fairly well with muscle and bone mass. But in practice, the definition of frame size is too difficult for people to use, so virtually nobody uses frame size as intended. Instead, people subjectively choose their own categories.

Problems with the Met Life tables

Most people who use the Met Life tables don't realize that they should specify their height while wearing "1 inch heel shoes". There are MANY websites using these tables that neglect to point this out.

The tables were designed for adults aged 25 to 59 years. They are certainly not suitable for children, and their usefulness in young adults is dubious. ( Remember that the tables were based on data collected by Life Insurance companies, and not many young adults have life insurance.)

The tables give reasonable results for people whose stature (tallness) is slightly shorter than the average, but the table results are poor for very short people, and particularly poor for tall people. This is illustrated in the following chart. The Met Life "medium frame" weight range is illustrated as a light blue or pink color. The median weight at each increment of height is the solid black line. Notice that they don't match in slope. For very tall men and women, the Met Life tables suggest impossibly low weights.

average weight men average weight women

 

The heights and weights of Men and Women are gradually increasing over time. People are slightly taller and heavier now, than they were in 1979. As population tallness increases, more and more people will discover the problems with the Met Life tables.

In light of the above problems, I believe the Metropolitan Life tables of height and weight should not be recommended for setting a target goal for weight-loss, unless you happen to be just below average height for your Gender.

ideal weightFor better Ideal body weight calculation methods, visit this page.

References

  1. http://www.metlife.com/Lifeadvice/Tools/Heightnweight/Docs/women.html
  2. http://www.metlife.com/Lifeadvice/Tools/Heightnweight/Docs/men.html
  3. http://www.metlife.com/Lifeadvice/Tools/Heightnweight/Docs/frametable.html
  4. Harrison GG, Height-weight tables. Ann Intern Med 1985; 103:489-94.
  5. Pai MP, Paloucek FP, The origin of the "Ideal" body weight equations. Ann Pharmacol 2000; 34:1066-69

 

Last modified 26-May-2008 by Steven B. Halls, MD

Met life ideal weight charts - issues