Physical status: the use and interpretation of anthropometry. Report of a WHO Expert Committee

World Health Organ Tech Rep Ser. 1995:854:1-452.


Anthropometry provides the single most portable, universally applicable, inexpensive and non-invasive technique for assessing the size, proportions, and composition of the human body. It reflects both health and nutritional status and predicts performance, health, and survival. As such, it is a valuable, but currently underused, tool for guiding public health policy and clinical decisions. This report presents the conclusions and comprehensive recommendations of a WHO Expert Committee for the present and future uses and interpretation of anthropometry. In a section that sets the technical framework for the report, the significance of anthropometric indicators and indices is explained and the principles of applied biostatistics and epidemiology that underlie their various uses are discussed. Subsequent sections provide detailed guidance on the use and interpretation of anthropometric measurements in pregnant and lactating women, newborn infants, infants and children, adolescents, overweight and thin adults, and adults aged 60 years and over. With a similar format for each section, the report assesses specific applications of anthropometry in individuals and populations for purposes of screening and for targeting and evaluating interventions. Advice on data management and analysis is offered, and methods of taking particular measurements are described. Each section also includes a discussion of the extent, reliability and universal relevance of existing reference data. An extensive series of reference data recommended by the Expert Committee and not widely distributed by WHO hitherto is included in an annex.

Publication types

  • Technical Report

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anthropometry*
  • Body Composition
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Female
  • Health Planning
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lactation
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status
  • Pregnancy
  • Public Health
  • World Health Organization