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It is widely claimed that in well-nourished populations, very low female waist–hip ratios (WHRs) together with low body mass indices (BMIs) are judged attractive by men because these features reliably indicate superior health and fertility. However, studies show that mortality rates are higher in women with low BMIs than in women with average BMIs and are inversely related to BMI in subsistence populations. Measures of current health in women of reproductive age have not been similarly studied. We analyze large U.S. samples of reproductive-age women and show that controlling for other factors known to affect health, those with low BMIs (<20), WHRs, or waist/stature ratios did not have better health than those with values in the middle range, and there was no relationship between subsequent health outcomes and BMI in early adulthood. Lower self-reported BMIs were linked to poorer health and an increased risk of infection. However, based on recent U.S. natality data, primiparas with lower BMIs had a lower risk of an operative delivery and of gestational hypertension. Beyond these two parity-restricted effects, relevant studies and new tests fail to support the view that women with the very low BMIs and WHRs consistently judged attractive are generally healthier than women with average values; significant correlations were consistently in the opposite direction.
Evolutionary Psychology – SAGE
Published: Oct 8, 2018
Keywords: attractiveness; waist–hip ratio; waist circumference; body mass index; health; pregnancy
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