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

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.