ATLANTA (CBS) — Men under stress are more attracted to obese and overweight women than guys in a relaxed state of mind, new research has concluded.

Psychologist Viren Swami of the University of Westminster in London and his colleague, Martin Tovee of Newcastle University, randomly assigned men to either a stressful situation that imitated a job interview or a relaxing condition in which they waited quietly in a room. A total of 81 white, British men took part in the study.

After the stressful faux interview or quiet waiting period, the men rated the attractiveness of photos of women who ranged in weight from emaciated to obese. The results revealed the stressed-out men rated plumper women more positively than the men who had not experienced any stress. They also rated the “normal” weight women as more attractive than their relaxed counterparts.

“These results are consistent with previous experimental work indicating that the experience of stress leads participants to prefer more mature physical characteristics, but extends earlier studies in showing that the stress also impacts on body size judgments,” the researchers wrote in PLoS One.

According to Live Science, the findings complement previous studies that have shown when resources are scarce, people prefer heavier partners, presumably because fatness is a sign that the person has access to food and is healthy. In women, for example, being underweight can make it more difficult to get and stay pregnant.

In situations marked with uncertainty, individuals tend to seek more resource security. In this case, it rests in a woman’s excess adipose tissue.

In one suggested hypothesis, this pattern should hold when people are emotionally stressed, because a heavier, more mature body type is indicative of someone who can handle a rough patch. But few studies have investigated whether stressed people really do prefer heavier bodies.

The findings suggest that context matters a lot in who we find attractive, the researchers wrote in the study. The findings could help explain why beauty standards vary from culture to culture and even within cultures.

And recent data could indicate that plumper partners are becoming increasingly easier to find. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out data recently that stated more than 35 percent of American adults (circa 78 million people) are considered obese, with a BMI greater than or equal to 30. 28 percent of Georgia adults were reported as being obese.

-Benjamin Fearnow


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