Detailed surveys of body size and shape (i.e., “anthropometric data”) are expensive and time-consuming. As a result, it is rare for a designer to have access to anthropometric data drawn from the specific user population of interest. However, other reasonably accurate descriptions of the user population might be available. For example, ergonomists designing assembly workstations may have good distributional information on the gender, age, and race/ethnicity of the worker population. Similar demographic data for the target users of a consumer product might also be available from market research.
The two most common, publicly available and relatively modern databases are ANSUR and CAESAR. ANSUR is a sample of US Military personnel in the late 1980s. CAESAR is a convenience sample of US Civilians in the early 2000s. Each of these contains details of measures that would be useful for design (e.g., seated hip breadth, sitting height, etc.).
Databases that are primarily limited to overall measures such as stature and mass are much more prevalent. For example, the NHANES databases are the result of surveys conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics in the United States. When the supplied weights are used in statistical analysis, the NHANES data are representative of the U.S. Civilian population at the time of the sample. Since 1999, the study is continuously ongoing and the data are released every two years. Population data containing at least a few anthropometric measures are available for a number of countries. These include England’s Health Survey, Germany’s MikroZensus, Japan’s Human Engineering for Quality of Life, and China’s Human Dimensions of Chinese Adults (GB 10000-88). The new ISO Technical Report 7250-2 contains summary statistics for a number of global populations.