The electromagnetic absorption cross-section (ACS) averaged over polarization and angle-of-incidence of 60 ungrounded adult subjects was measured at microwave frequencies of 1–12 GHz in a reverberation chamber. Average ACS is important in non-ionizing dosimetry and exposure studies, and is closely related to the whole-body averaged specific absorption rate (WBSAR). The average ACS was measured with a statistical uncertainty of less than 3% and high frequency resolution for individuals with a range of body shapes and sizes allowing the statistical distribution of WBSAR over a real population with individual internal and external morphologies to be determined. The average ACS of all subjects was found to vary from 0.15 to 0.4 m2; for an individual subject it falls with frequency over 1–6 GHz, and then rises slowly over the 6–12 GHz range in which few other studies have been conducted. Average ACS and WBSAR are then used as a surrogate for worst-case ACS/WBSAR, in order to study their variability across a real population compared to literature results from simulations using numerical phantoms with a limited range of anatomies. Correlations with body morphological parameters such as height, mass and waist circumference have been investigated: the strongest correlation is with body surface area (BSA) at all frequencies above 1 GHz, however direct proportionality to BSA is not established until above 5 GHz. When the average ACS is normalized to the BSA, the resulting absorption efficiency shows a negative correlation with the estimated thickness of subcutaneous body fat. Surrogate models and statistical analysis of the measurement data are presented and compared to similar models from the literature. The overall dispersion of measured average WBSAR of the sample of the UK population studied is consistent with the dispersion of simulated worst-case WBSAR across multiple numerical phantom families. The statistical results obtained allow the calibration of human exposure assessments made with particular phantoms to a population with a range of individual morphologies.