The Official Newsletter of
August 9, 2003
Is Physical Attractiveness 
a Sign of Health?

by Ron Brown, author of The Body Fat Guide 

"Ron Brown is a certified fitness trainer who doesn't have an inch of flab on his body. He'll tell you what you can do to become fit and trim too." 
Washington DC

EVERY CULTURE considers certain human facial and body features in each sex to be physically attractive. Evolutionary psychologists suggest that physical attraction in humans is a universal trait, which plays an important role in natural selection—how people chose their mating partners. 

According to evolutionary psychologists, female physical attractiveness is an indication of a female's biological health and reproductive fitness. Male physical attractiveness is an indicator of a male's ability to physically provide for and protect a female, although this has become somewhat less important in modern Western society where the ability to earn a good wage is considered more useful than brawn. 

Although men appear to place more emphasis on a woman's physical attractiveness than women place on male physical attractiveness, nevertheless, both sexes tend to agree on certain characteristics that they consider attractive in the opposite sex. Most people also consider physical attractiveness to be a sign of good health.

But, is there scientific evidence to support the popular idea that a physically attractive person is healthier? Surprisingly, no1, although much more research needs to be done to fully investigate this theory. In the meantime, scientists must assume that without evidence to backup such a theory, there is no relationship between physical attractiveness and health.

However, this does not imply that supporting evidence can not be found. The purpose of this article is to point to areas of investigation that may prove fruitful in providing evidence that physical attractiveness is a sign of health.

For example, one physical characteristic that both sexes consider attractive in the opposite sex concerns waist-to-hip ratio. Males consider a female more attractive the narrower her waist size is in relation to her hip size. Females also consider this proportion important in male attractiveness.

There is a definite relationship between one's waist-to-hip ratio and one's percentage body fat. A lower body fat percentage produces a more attractive waist-to-hip ratio in both males and females. Lower body fat is also strongly correlated with less risk of health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, fertility problems and other health problems. 

Since low body fat percentages have health benefits, and since attractive waist-to-hip ratios are determined by low body fat percentages, there is a relationship between the physical attractiveness of waist-to-hip ratios and the health benefits of low body fat percentages. This therefore provides evidence that physical attractiveness is a sign of health.

In addition to body characteristics such as waist-to-hip ratio, facial features are also an important physical characteristic of attraction. Some studies suggest there is no relationship between facial attractiveness and health2. However, an important distinction needs to be made between facial features that are a result of heredity, e.g., eye color and shape, bone structure, etc., and facial characteristics that are a result of one's physical condition. 

For example, regardless of inherited features, a double chin and fat cheeks may be considered less attractive in a person's face in comparison to a leaner jaw line and leaner cheeks within that same individual. Since these types of non-inherited facial characteristics are determined by one's body fat percentage, and since lower body fat is positively correlated with improved health, a relationship between overall facial attractiveness and health would be established. 

Physical attractiveness may have another effect on one's health via improvement in feelings of well-being. The more you lower your body fat and improve your appearance, the better you may feel about yourself. Thus, you may be less likely to suffer negative effects of depression and lowered immune response on your health. 

1 Baron, R. A., Byrne, D., Watson, G., Exploring Social Psychology (pp. 207). 3rd Canadian ed., Toronto: Pearson Education.
2 Kalick, S. M., Zebrowitz, L. A., Langlois, J. H., & Johnson R. M. (1998). Does human facial attractiveness honestly advertise health? Longitudinal data on an evolutionary question. Psychological Science, 9, 8–13.

This is not to suggest that all attractive people feel good about themselves. But, it does suggest that improving one's appearance may be likely to improve one's mental state which may positively impact one's health.

Obviously, unnatural means of improving one's physical features, such as resorting to liposuction, do not provide all of the health benefits that result from lowering one's body fat level through healthy lifestyle modifications. If you are interested in improving your physical attractiveness, why not chose a method that will show you how to make the proper lifestyle modifications while simultaneously improving your health?

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