Stressed Men Prefer Heavier Women

Men subject to psychological stress rate heavier women as more attractive, and find a greater range of body sizes desirable.

By | August 9, 2012


Stress, even short-term, appears to play a role in who we judge as a good potential partner, according to a new study published today (August 9) in PLoS ONE. The authors had previously shown that people living in more stressful environments express preference for a greater range of body types, but this is the first study to show the effect can be stimulated by situational stress.

"There's a lot of literature suggesting that our BMI (body mass index) preferences are hard-wired, but that's probably not true," coauthor Dr Martin Tovee, from Newcastle University, told BBC News.

Tovee and colleague Viren Swami asked two groups of men to rate the attractiveness of a range of women, from emaciated to obese. One group sat quietly before the ratings, while the other was given math and public speaking tasks to induce stress. Between the two groups, the men were controlled for BMI and hunger, factors the authors had previously identified as factors that influence attractiveness judgements.

Within the same spectrum of weights, the stressed men rated heavier women as more attractive than the non-stressed men. Additionally, the stressed men extend their preferences into a wider spectrum of body sizes, rating heavier women as attractive. The authors think stress draws men to heavier women because they appear more capable of enduring environmental stress.

"If you look at environments where food is scarce, people's preferences for body size in a potential partner are shifted," Tovee told BBC News. "[The preference] appears to be much heavier compared to environments where there's plenty of food and a much more relaxed atmosphere."

While the study shows lifestyle may have an impact on who people find attractive, the authors also point to fluctuating environmental conditions as drivers of preference.

"There's a continual pushing down of the ideal, but this preference is flexible. Changing the media, changing your lifestyle, all these things can change what you think is the ideal body size," Tovee said.

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You



Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo


Avatar of: staciemonahan


Posts: 1457

August 11, 2012

I found this article to be very interesting, because I have never read any type of article with this form of content before.  Its refreshing to read about women in a different light than typical model attractiveness.  I have many male friends and many have said they too prefer a woman with "some meat on their bones" is how they state it!  I always' reward them with a six pack and a pizza every time they express this reaction!

Avatar of: Shaun Huang

Shaun Huang

Posts: 1457

August 11, 2012

How did becoming attractive to wider range of body weight, including emaciated, turn into "prefer heavier"?   Prefer heavier would also means staying away from thinner. Conspiracy theories of personal bias/agenda abound. >:3

Avatar of: Armando Ducoing

Armando Ducoing

Posts: 1

August 12, 2012

This article appears to have been published earlier at The Onion.

Avatar of: Mikołaj Mao Tzhi

Mikołaj Mao Tzhi

Posts: 1457

August 15, 2012

Shaun, the article states that previous studies (with chronic stress) found the wider-range-attractive effect, while the current points to a shift in preferrence (under transient stress).

Popular Now

  1. That Other CRISPR Patent Dispute
    Daily News That Other CRISPR Patent Dispute

    The Broad Institute and Rockefeller University disagree over which scientists should be named as inventors on certain patents involving the gene-editing technology.

  2. How Gaining and Losing Weight Affects the Body
    Daily News How Gaining and Losing Weight Affects the Body

    Millions of measurements from 23 people who consumed extra calories every day for a month reveal changes in proteins, metabolites, and gut microbiota that accompany shifts in body mass.

  3. Neurons Use Virus-Like Proteins to Transmit Information
  4. DOE-Sponsored Oak Ridge National Laboratory to Cut 100 More Jobs