Does stress make us less attractive?
A new study suggests that women in high-pressure jobs could struggle to find a partner as high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, can make us appear less attractive.
Researchers are the bearers of bad news as it is revealed that stress can make us look less attractive facially to the opposite sex. A study discovered that women with high levels of the stress hormone cortisol are rated as having less attractive faces than those with lower levels of cortisol.
This effect is thought to occur because our faces carry strong signals about our health and fertility. It is also thought that those with higher levels of stress are generally less healthy. The researchers did however discover that the strength of a woman’s immune system did not affect her attractiveness.
Leader of the study and biologist at the University of Turku in Finland, Dr Markus Rantala has said:
“Perhaps, then, low levels of cortisol signal health in female faces. This would be consistent with many studies in humans that have found that stress has strong negative effect on health, including immune function, heart disease and susceptibility to cancer. An alternative explanation is that facial attractiveness signals reproductive potential, which is mediated partly by stress hormones.”
The study involved 52 young Latvian women (around the age of 20) being vaccinated against hepatitis B. The researchers then took blood samples to measure their cortisol levels and immune response. Finally, they asked 18 male students to rate each woman’s attractiveness, based on photographs of their faces.
While the researchers could find no link between perceived attractiveness and immune response, they did discover that those with lower levels of cortisol in their blood were considered more attractive.
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