Lifestyle & Belief

Stressed-out men like fuller-figured women: study


A 1955 calendar depicting the iconically voluptuous Marilyn Monroe. The actress would wear a US size 8-10 if she were alive today -- a far cry from today's size 0 or less models.


Gabriel Bouys

Ladies, no longer stress about your weight -- or if you've got more generous proportions, keep your eye out for a stressed-out dude instead.

A new study suggests that men under stress are more attracted by, as Britain's The Daily Mail put it, "a woman with curves."

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The data, released Wednesday in PLoS ONE journal, was based on a test group of 41 men who were asked to rate an assortment of variously-sized women after undergoing a stressful task. A separate male group of similar size, sans stress, were asked to do the same. 

Result? Researchers at London's University of Westminster found that the stressed-out group "rated heavier female bodies as more attractive and idealized a wider range of female figures than did the control group," according to PLoS ONE

"Hips hips hooray," cheered Britain's The Sun, citing study researcher Dr. Viren Swami as explaining that fuller-figured females "communicate strength, control and independence during times of threat.”

Previous research in this area supports the findings, reported ABC, citing evolutionary theories based on thinner womens' propensity for illness and infertility. 

In terms of evolutionary biology, study author Martin Tovee told ABC that "being heavier means that you have fat stored up as a buffer and that you must be higher social status to afford the food in the first place."

But the new research suggests that body size partiality is "flexible and can be changed by environment and circumstance" instead of being biologically ingrained, Tovee told ABC, emphasizing a "need to understand the factors shaping body preferences" in today's image-conscious world. 

"Changing the media, changing your lifestyle, all these things can change what you think is the ideal body size," Trovee told BBC News.

"There's a lot of literature suggesting that our BMI [body mass index] preferences are hard-wired, but that's probably not true," the Newcastle University professor told BBC

The Daily Mail, of course, had its own interpretation of the results: "The study suggests if work or finances are playing on their [mens'] minds, they are more likely to turn to a lady with the figure of shapely Nigella Lawson than skinny Angelina Jolie," it said. 

The Sun preferred the historical anecdote, noting: "Shapely actress Mae West wowed male movie-goers in the troubled 1930s."