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Stressed-out men find heavier women attractive
August 9th, 2012
10:27 AM ET

Stressed-out men find heavier women attractive

Feel free to indulge in that brownie, ladies - especially if the man you've got your eye on is worried about a work project. A study published this week in the journal PLOS ONE shows men who are psychologically stressed find heavier women attractive.

The study

Eighty-one heterosexual, white men, aged 18 to 42, were put into two groups. The first group took the Trier Social Stress Test, which increased stress levels by asking participants to take on the role of a job applicant in front of a hiring committee. The second group was sent to a room to wait quietly.

Both groups were then shown images of women with various body mass indexes. Study participants evaluated the women's attractiveness on a scale of 1 (very unattractive) to 9 (very attractive). They were then asked to select the woman they found most attractive, the largest woman they found attractive and the smallest woman they found attractive.

The results

While both groups rated underweight women the same, the men with more stress gave significantly higher ratings to women in the normal and high BMI categories than their calmer counterparts. The stressed group's picks for the largest woman they found attractive was also much heavier, on average, than the control group's picks.

The take-away

Not much, if we're being honest. Scientists have long known that a society's ideal body size is shaped by their access to resources. Larger women are preferred when there is a threat, like limited food, because their bodies signify the ability to survive in hostile environments. In today's world, that threat can be as simple as the possibility of unemployment.

Even hunger has an impact on the male mind - previous studies have shown that hungry men find heavier women attractive, according to the study. (Yet another reason to keep the chocolate in your hands!)

iReporters: What beauty means to me


soundoff (214 Responses)
  1. kendra

    Stressed men probably have lowered self esteem and motivation. It takes a little more effort to woo attractive women as they have more choices of men. It's the same deal with unattractive men, they don't often waste their time going after attractive women. It's a matter of knowing, explicitly or intuitively, your chances.

    August 10, 2012 at 07:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • creative36

      I have to disagree with you. Unattractive men tend to shoot for the hottest women. It's a lot different for men then women.

      August 10, 2012 at 09:48 | Report abuse |
    • SoccerMom89

      Does Obama think women should grow their own cotton for Tampons? Then why does he think they should grow their own Medical Marijuana in San Diego? Obama is a hypocrite and an idiot.

      August 10, 2012 at 10:55 | Report abuse |
    • meinside99

      Not true....all men shoot for attractive women first. If u see an attractive man with an unattractive woman, rest assured, he has been cheated on or used by women in the past and is now playing it safe!!!!!!!!!!

      August 10, 2012 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      Soccermom, you are seriously logic challenged.

      August 10, 2012 at 14:07 | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      Agreed. Or they're so low in energy they can't imagine how they'd chase after a really fit woman.

      August 10, 2012 at 14:40 | Report abuse |
    • Pizza the Hutt

      hey soccer mom. Your analogy is like a folded lawn chair, it has all the pieces. (Made more sense than your analogy LOL)

      August 10, 2012 at 15:18 | Report abuse |
    • dx2718

      I don't think that's the case for this study. They were asked about the attractiveness of women, not whether they personally would go for the woman. If anything, women with whom they would have no shot should get rated highest on objective attractiveness. Also, stressed men don't necessarily have lower self-esteem. It depends highly upon the kind of stress.

      August 11, 2012 at 03:11 | Report abuse |
    • Julie V89

      Go soccermon...! you tell those dim-witted democrats that they will lose the election in November because they are hypocrites against the people who put them in power – medical marijuana patients are all against Obama now because he sent his federal agents into San Diego wearing masks to terrorize and shut down all dispensaries.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:48 | Report abuse |
    • Ted Striker

      Grats, you guys managed to post a political response in the very first reply.

      Terrible

      August 11, 2012 at 16:27 | Report abuse |
    • jim

      Kendram

      With all due respect – you haven't got a clue and your comment makes that clear.

      Liz,

      You're in the same boat as Kendra.

      August 11, 2012 at 20:56 | Report abuse |
    • Lucinda

      Eric Holder is a criminal for giving assault rifles to Drug Cartels while Obama terrorizes law-abiding cancer patients and shuts down all medical marijuana dispensaries. Obama and Holder both belong in Prison.

      August 12, 2012 at 21:45 | Report abuse |
    • Ncanon

      What the cr*p does this article have to do with politics?

      August 12, 2012 at 22:07 | Report abuse |
    • BaltoPaul

      SoccerMom:

      Obama wants soccer moms in San Diego to grow their own weed so they won't have to smoke their tampons. It's not rocket science.

      August 13, 2012 at 00:02 | Report abuse |
    • Cathy

      Obama betrayed the Medical Marijuana Patients that put him in Office. Why does he hate the people who voted for him?

      August 13, 2012 at 09:05 | Report abuse |
    • jcvet33

      A lot of men must be stressed out then because 95% of women in he US are hogs.

      August 13, 2012 at 10:23 | Report abuse |
    • mfab710

      Wow. Just because a woman has some extra pounds does not mean she is unattractive. On the flip side of that, simply because a woman is thin, does not make her attractive. Get your priorities straight.

      August 13, 2012 at 10:53 | Report abuse |
  2. Sadie Boyd

    Somebody help this guy in the picture! He looks so distraught, it has stressed me out...

    August 10, 2012 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joey

      No, he's actually just taking a peek at one of the "heavier" women shown on the screen.

      August 10, 2012 at 10:45 | Report abuse |
  3. OyVey

    Stupid study, or stupidest study ever? Does pretending to be a job applicant (a role for which they were no doubt paid) really induce stress? And more importantly, who cares? I hope this wasn't funded by tax dollars...but fear it was.

    August 10, 2012 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Yert

    The American Media is ruining the future of our country. Instead of breeding for intelligence and work ethic we breed for looks and the criminal thug "badboy" mentality. Not really to worry though because the Mexicans will be the majority followed by the Chinese rulers which dumb welfare babies will not be able to compete with. Back on topic, I am stressed, short and successful so I like bigger, not OBESE, women.

    August 10, 2012 at 09:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Sue

    Maybe it's a mommy thing, they're looking for comfort?

    August 10, 2012 at 10:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. SB1790

    The conclusion is total nonsense. One could also say that it has nothing to do with the size of the woman, but rather the extra stress is inducing a sex response in the men. Take a group of highly stressed men, and see if their sex drive goes up. If a male's sex drive is up, they are less apt to be as choosy about their partner.

    August 10, 2012 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Liz

      Or they're too tired to chase the fit women...

      August 10, 2012 at 14:41 | Report abuse |
    • Evo5

      YOUR RESPONSE IS MORE LOGICAL THAN THE STUDY!!!!!! @ SB1790 GO FIGURE!!!

      August 10, 2012 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
  7. ChunkieThunkie

    Stressed people seek comfort food. Larger women might appear to have more access to food. Perhaps it isn't sex drive at all, but a craving for pizza and ice cream to feed the stress?

    August 10, 2012 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Kathy

    A lot of people (men & women) eat as a way of dealing with stress. So, a heavier woman may be just as stressed as a man and maybe more so if she stresses about her weight. A stressed out couple may not be able to nurture each other. I am slim and I have a step-daughter who is a little heavy but she is one of the most drop-dead gorgeous young ladies I have ever seen and she doesn't even try. Married one of the luckiest guys in the world too.

    August 10, 2012 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. fiftyfive55

    That's because guys worry more about skinny good looking girls cheating on them and also,guys are more open around fat chicks because the guys just want a little friendship,not sex so no pressure

    August 10, 2012 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. kt2388

    Do you people have anything better to do then find research on stupid studies as this, like who cares if stressing guys makes them more attractive to over weight women are you serious is this what our researches do with their time now days how bout you find a cure for cancer has that happened yet.

    August 10, 2012 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Vincent Demonbreun

      Cure for cancer is organic fresh fruits and vegetables and staying avoiding the everyday toxins as much as possible. Doctors are not suppose to give this information.

      August 10, 2012 at 11:47 | Report abuse |
  11. Vincent Demonbreun

    It may not so much because the women are heavier, it may be because they seemed more proportioned and have more defined curves. I may be the exeption to this as well but I find heavier and curvier women more attractive and I am not under stress. My wife is obese by American standards but her blood work is better than the doctors that checked her plus she exercises and has great curves!!

    August 10, 2012 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mulosovic

      Agreed.

      August 11, 2012 at 00:13 | Report abuse |
    • Gopherit

      Also agree!

      August 13, 2012 at 00:16 | Report abuse |
  12. Wait how many?

    81 straight dudes. I didn't know straight men were that hard to find. Perhaps you should redo the test with same gender ladies and see if they like the brownie eaters.

    August 10, 2012 at 12:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. James

    Speaking as a straight male, I interpret the results as stressed men are less picky because sex and intimacy reduces stress. It doesn't say that stressed men preferred larger women, just that they found the larger women more attractive than they were when they were not stressed. You'd see the same results if you compared a group of sober men to a group of drunk men, or a group of men who get all the sex they want to a group of men who haven't been laid in 2 years. I know that when I've been single, the more stressed I was, the less choosy I became. It's not that I found the larger women more attractive, I just was more willing to take what was good enough with the least chance of rejection (additional stress).

    August 10, 2012 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jayc123

      agree 100%

      August 10, 2012 at 15:07 | Report abuse |
  14. me

    i consider myself to be attractive.. i have unattractive people hitting on me constantly

    August 10, 2012 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Adam

    Pretty sure this primordial. If we're stressed we want to date a fatty so we don't have to worry about feeding her as much, since she's got some junk in the trunk to work with. Ya feel me?

    August 10, 2012 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Liz

    From a woman's POV, I find men with big bellies unappealing. Fairly or unfairly, true or not, it suggests lack of stamina.

    August 10, 2012 at 14:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. fiftyfive55

    Fat broads are easy and hot broads are sleazy

    August 10, 2012 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. jayc123

    "Feel free to indulge in that brownie, ladies – especially if the man you've got your eye on is worried about a work project."

    Please dont ladies, stay skinny 😛

    August 10, 2012 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. xab

    Try this out with gay men and the whole theory is blown away. The answer will always be the most attractive, fit man wins.

    August 10, 2012 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GypsyMom

      Then how do you explain the significant demographic of bears/cubs and the young, fit men who seek them exclusively? :-/

      August 11, 2012 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
  20. bibl

    Fascinating.....and how do moronic and worthless studies like this get funded?

    August 10, 2012 at 16:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. MWKilduff

    I think that the conclusions are preposterous! The simplest answer as to why a stressed out man is looking at heavier woman as attractive is that the men are looking to get laid with as little resistance and possible. With that in mind they do not have any interest in a princess.

    August 10, 2012 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. DK

    Probably because no one will "steal" their fat girlfriend so that's one less thing they have to worry about.

    August 10, 2012 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. DC

    If this article were true, then the full-figured head of Homeland Security (Janet Napolitano) wouldn't be the subject of a sexual harassment suit from her own male employees, but you wouldn't know that if you only read CNN, because that wouldn't jive with their hard-left agenda...would it?

    August 10, 2012 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Hasai

    Personally, I think it's because it gives you more to hug at the end of yet another hellish day.

    August 10, 2012 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. eroteme

    I am inclined not to believe this. I cannot imagine any young man who is attracted to fat women, it could of course happen for the young man who cannot find a slim young lady that is attracted to him. Better, fat to fat, this is the answer.

    August 10, 2012 at 20:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jesse B

      One, beauty is in the eyes of the viewer. Second, Im a very big fan of large breasts. Heavier women tend to have big breasts. If they carry it well than whats the issue? Im very stressed, so maybe thats the reason I gravitate that direction. Skinny women are painful to have relations also, my hip bones (I am told I look like a holocaust victim) do not need to grind against a woman's hip bones

      August 12, 2012 at 00:03 | Report abuse |
  26. Michelle D

    so..according to those commenting on this page...its virtually impossible for a man to find a bigger woman attractive unless he was desperate or lazy...so i guess the adult industry focusing on this subject..is popular based on the fact that men are too lazy to type in the search "sexy thin girl" vs "sexy big girl"...and little do we semi educated folks forget there was an entire period in art focusing on the full figured form..Rubenesque..A man or woman knows what they like...study or no study...desperation or no desperation

    August 10, 2012 at 23:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Mulosovic

    first of all this study is dumb. Ever since i was a kid i have loved big women. Just as my friends were finding thinner women attractive. with that being said, what i find attractive has not changed due to stressful moments. I can't speak for others but i highly doubt what people find attractive changes due to stress..you like what you like. Taste is very tricky..what if all the thin women weren't as attractive as the bigger women in the face, there are too many variables. Again stress has never changed what i find attractive. Has it ever changed what you've found attractive?

    August 10, 2012 at 23:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. oh geez

    Oh for heaven's sakes. Is the attraction to larger women so controversial that we *need* a study to figure out *why* some men chase after them? Really? It's pathologizing something as simple as sexual attraction.

    You know, there are plenty of reasons why a man may choose a woman who society deems "less" than attractive and none of them have to do with stress levels. Intelligence, a good personality, common interests, has a good job, open minded, isn't scared off by ordering pizza once a month. Not saying that thin women don't fall into the above but come on. Society treats fat women like they're a scourge rather than human beings that have a lot to offer. Seeing studies like this is insulting to both fat women and the men who admire them.

    Doesn't science have something *better* to do, you know, like cure cancer or AIDS? Priorities, people!

    August 11, 2012 at 04:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. sahari

    You know what? I don't give a damn. I embrace my body for housing my soul, and I worship God, not my body, and not anyone else's judgement, good or bad.

    August 11, 2012 at 04:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. KateB

    Er, the study does not SAY big/fat women...it simply says: "average or heavy in the normal weight range/BMI" instead of thin or underweight BMI range. So, men who have elevated stress levels find women in the normal weight range to heavier (but still in the normal) range hotter in comparison to men with no stress. So the study examines women who are thinner-to-heavier AVERAGE women.

    Attractiveness has a lot to do with clothing, style, hair, intelligence, how you carry yourself, and yes, not being obese. *shrugs* This was an odd study, but...well, someone's got to ask questions right? :O)

    August 11, 2012 at 09:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KateB

      Oops, I guess it didn't say that explicitly...interesting. Well, the author didn't do a very good job defining the results I guess!

      August 11, 2012 at 09:03 | Report abuse |
  31. Ted Striker

    Personally I like thinner girls because it takes alot more effort in the US to maintain a slim physique, so it's not the norm anymore. Americans are now about 30 pounds overweight on average. Girl who can maintain herself may be more savvy in understanding health and taking care of herself, maybe that's more important to survival than aesthetics.

    August 11, 2012 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      Agreed. Good statement I was thinking the same.

      August 13, 2012 at 15:48 | Report abuse |
    • Baldheaded Fool

      american women have totally let themselves go the last 20 years or so. i also don't get all these tattoos they crave so much....all over their body.

      August 13, 2012 at 20:22 | Report abuse |
  32. lindaluttrell

    Who in the world took this survey...and answered it honestly???

    August 11, 2012 at 18:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. George Fear

    So why do I think science today is as phony and fake as a three dollar bill? As a professional wrestling match?! Seriously!? This is actually a subject of study!? Any one actually agreed to spend money for this SH^T!. PA LEEZ! And this is what is masquarading as science today and people here, judging from their comments , take it seriously. The time it took to read this article and post this comment is an unfortunate loss of seven minutes gone forever that I will never get back. But some one actually takes this SH^T seriously!

    August 11, 2012 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Jake

    Thin girls take more effort to get, and are more likely to cheat on you – because a thin girl in America has men chasing her nonstop. Even if her face isn't all that great, if she's thin she has men trying to get at her constantly. Just the way it is.

    Fat girls are easier to get with and they rarely cheat on you. If a guy has a lot of stress in the rest of his life, he takes the easiest path of least resistance in his romantic life and settles for a fat girl because he doesn't want the *additional* stress of trying to get an attractive girl and then worrying that she's straying.

    August 11, 2012 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michelle D

      with the amount of fat admirer groups out there..you'd be surprised how easy it would be for a bigger woman to find another man if the ones shes with is treating her like sXXt..or using her because he is desperate...fat women aren't stupid...we don't stay with a guy because we're lonely...we stay because they treat us well and love us body and soul..i feel bad for the women that are settling for the type of man that want them because they are lonely..these women can be worshiped and loved if they met a man thru these types of channels...my husband of 5 years can attest to this...he is of normal weight and has loved big women his whole life. A big girl can stray...and if you're worried that the hot chick you're with may stray maybe you should look at how you're treating them...or the level of relationship you have with them..the less you invest the less she'll care and the less you'll care and the better chance of straying to occur. It is possible to find "the one" who is hot..and if she loves you she won't stray...and if she does your relationship does not have a chance in hell of surviving anyways..and who wants to waste their entire life in these types of relationships unless its only sex they're after..which is of course your choice.

      August 12, 2012 at 02:52 | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      Michelle: There are some chubby chasers out there, but not that many. I've only met one chubby chaser in my life and it was funny because he was the skinniest guy you ever saw! Like 100 pounds. I didn't get that, lol. I don't knock a big girl who wants to look for one of those guys, though. That's probably really smart actually.

      Anyway, I was talking from an "average young guy" POV and the vast majority of average young guys find fat girls unattractive. I'm not trying to be mean saying that, it's just true. They can still be fun and smart and interesting and all that – they're just not attractive. I'm not in the marriage-market stage yet but once I get there, I wouldn't be against a bigger girl if she was really sweet and intelligent. Attractiveness doesn't matter as much when you're talking a girl you're going to have to like being around for the rest of the life.

      That's just my experience, though! And like I said – not trying to be mean.

      August 12, 2012 at 16:30 | Report abuse |
    • Michelle D

      i do appreciate that answer...in the end you like what you like i was more or less bothered by your answer and others like that here only because it stereotyped bigger women as the type of woman to settle on...whether you end up marrying or having a long term relationship with a woman big or thin...its all preference..no one likes to be lumped into a category that states they're a settling point..and not someone they WANT to be with..fortunately im not looking for anyone and hopefully my marriage lasts and i wont have to..but i feel bad for other bigger women...younger women reading this thinking the extra weight they're carrying makes them ugly and repulsive..when i know for a fact some men find them attractive...and you're right in some respects..some men that have wanted me have been very skinny...im lucky ive ended up with a man that though not as big as i am...6 ft 200lbs..can handle someone of my weight...;}

      August 13, 2012 at 02:18 | Report abuse |
    • Michelle D

      IE my man is 6ft 200lbs hehe

      August 13, 2012 at 02:20 | Report abuse |
    • This Girl

      I know someone who's super morbidly obese who has not one but TWO men. Who she's been upholding relationships with for years. To say that a bigger girl won't cheat is out of hand. lol

      August 13, 2012 at 12:40 | Report abuse |
    • Baldheaded Fool

      maybe, but there are also just ALOT more fat girls than thin ones now. so the probability of getting someone thin, especially over 30, is slim (pun intended)

      August 13, 2012 at 20:24 | Report abuse |
  35. runymede

    These kinds of studies are so "stoopid".

    August 12, 2012 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. altheaj

    I believe everyone is over-thinking this. Stressed men want Mommy, someone matronly, generally a more heavy-set woman. And it's the same for women – a stressed woman will be attracted to a Daddy-figure. This also helps explain why men often marry a matronly type who helps him grow professionally, then dumps her for a thinner, younger woman after he has made it to the top – he's over the most stressful part and doesn't need "Mommy" anymore. Makes sense, right?

    August 12, 2012 at 10:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. im-a-guy

    Most guys are lazy. In general, attractive women take a lot more work to get and keep happy. In general, attractive women get more attention but rarely seem to find "the one". Guys will date party girls for fun but women who are down to earth and confident are the women men take home to mother – no matter their size or their attractiveness.

    August 12, 2012 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Lets Produce

    There's an easy explanation behind this study. When guys get stressed, they just want to punch something. These bigger woman look more like the punching bags they worked out with when younger. Not that they will actually punch these fat women. It's just a familiar visual cue when wanting to unload their stress.

    August 12, 2012 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. names2

    is that a man in the photo? looks like a woman trying to look like a man. Why are men so effeminate these days?

    August 12, 2012 at 18:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Baldheaded Fool

      men are becoming more feminine and reserved while women more masculine and dominating. we are well on our way to becoming a unisex society.

      August 13, 2012 at 20:27 | Report abuse |
  40. Livi B

    high heels were made so women can easily be dragged out of their caves without offering up much of a chase. The one thing slower than a woman in heels? An overweight woman in heels.

    August 12, 2012 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. miscreantsall

    If the study is accurate, it indicates a very primitive behavior. How disappointing!

    Very stressful job here and I prefer "barbie doll" bodies. Fat and supposedly "full figure" girls don't do it for me.

    August 13, 2012 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Marc Shakter

    Maybe this is as simple as deep down survival instinct says if things get too rough the woman IS the food source. I'd imagine a heavier woman would taste better then some little skin and bones thing...

    August 13, 2012 at 03:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Dave

    With out seeing the pictures of the women this study means nothing.

    August 13, 2012 at 08:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Daniel

    Well sounds good in theory i guess but that test group of 81 doesnt cut it, try again with about 10,000 men

    August 13, 2012 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. On the other hand

    I like big, curvy women. But I guess if I got stressed out enough, I might settle for a thin one.

    August 13, 2012 at 10:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Edward

    And the lesbian wars against heterosexuals continues.

    August 13, 2012 at 10:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Baldheaded Fool

      the war extends far beyond just lesbians and encompasses just women in general against femininity.

      August 13, 2012 at 20:29 | Report abuse |
  47. Pest

    The stressed men want someone on whom they can take out their stress. They reason that fat women are desperate enough to put up with it. Seems perfectly logical.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. PEDO BEAR

    ( o Y o )

    August 13, 2012 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • im-a-guy

      Motorboat!

      Bbbbbbbbbbbbbbb!

      August 13, 2012 at 13:16 | Report abuse |
  49. David

    I do like my fatties, what can I say. Besides, after a few drinks it ain't so bad.

    August 13, 2012 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Chris

    Garbage article with a garbage study with garbage researchers in a garbage journal. Try getting a real research project underway with valid research methods. My reference, my degree in Psych.

    August 13, 2012 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
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