## Reference Question of the Week – 3/4/12

March 10th, 2012 Brian HerzogThis was the perfect question to research on a slow Friday afternoon:

How high is eye level?

It turns out, a patron, who was definitely on the short side, wanted to hang a piece of art. However, knowing that her "eye level" was below average, she wanted to know if there was some "golden mean" eye level that would put the art at a pleasing height, no matter how tall the viewer was.

I wasn't entirely sure how to approach this one. Actually, my first thought was to check the *Statistical Abstract of the United States* just to see if it would give the average height of the citizenry, but I didn't think it gave physical statistics (I checked anyway, and no, it doesn't).

I figured an open web search for phrases like "how high is eye level" would produce all sorts of opinions, and it did. Then we tried a few searches specifically for "how to hang artwork" and found a few other opinions.

The patron seemed uncomfortable with the range of answers - they were all close, but not precise. It seemed like she wanted a single answer, and a reason why that was the answer.

So, we decided to go back to the "average height of a person" approach. A search for average height of a person lead to a Wikipedia article for human height. The section on US citizens cited a Centers for Disease Control report [pdf], which gave me the idea to see if the data was on their website.

A search for average height site:cdc.gov did indeed lead to a CDC page of average body measurements (which was also the source for the report cited by Wikipedia).

Now it was just some quick math:

Average height of women older than 20: | 63.8 inches |

Average height of men older than 20: | 69.4 inches |

Sum of the averages: | 133.2 inches |

Sum divided by 2 to get average average: | 66.6 inches* |

Average minus 3.5 inches (to get from top of the head down to eye level): | 63.1 inches, or 5' 3.1", or 5' 3-1/8"** |

So based on the data and our math, average eye level for Americans over 20 is 63.1 inches. She seemed very pleased with this answer - it seemed to me just as arbitrary as the rest we found, but at least our arbitrary figure was backed up by research and math. Regardless, I think that was exactly what she wanted, and she thanked me and left.

This was fun, and I can't help but think she will repeatedly recount this story any time someone comments on the artwork in her house.

*The average person is Satan!

**This was converted using Wolfram|Alpha and the Excel formula =INT(A1) & " ft " & TEXT(MOD(A1,1)*12, "# ??/16 ""in"""). I did this on my own after the fact - the patron though was happy with "5 foot 3 inches, and a little more," to account for the .1 - besides, the 3.5 inches down to eye level was a rough estimation anyway.