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Pretty Women Are Generally Less Stressed and More Fertile, Study

Update Date: May 22, 2013 11:21 AM EDT

Numerous studies have looked into the links between being physically attractive and several other personality factors. Even though beauty is determined socially to a certain extent, researchers have been interested in finding how beauty contributes to overall wellbeing and quality of life. In a new study, reported by Daily Mail, researchers found that people who were more facially attractive also had lower levels of cortisol, a hormone tied to stress.

The researchers, headed by Dr. Markus Rantala from the University of Turku in Finland, recruited 52 Latvian women with the average age of 20. Their photographs were taken and their levels of attractiveness were measured based on the opinions of 18 heterosexual undergraduate males. The participants were then vaccinated against hepatitis B so that the researchers could record the levels of antibodies produced. The researchers found that facial attractiveness did not correlate with improved immune systems. In a previous study, researchers found that for men, facial attractiveness correlated with a better immune system. However, they found that women who were considered more beautiful had lower levels of cortisol. The researchers believe that more stress could reduce a woman's facial attractiveness.

"Interestingly, facial attractiveness correlated negatively with plasma cortisol level suggesting stress reduces attractiveness in women. This supports previous findings from male faces, which show cortisol is inversely related to facial attractiveness. In contrast to findings in men, we found women's immune response is not associated with their facial attractiveness," Rantala stated. "Perhaps then, low levels of cortisol also signal health in female faces. This would be consistent with many studies in humans that have found stress has strong negative effect on health, including immune function, heart disease and susceptibility to cancer."

Since cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands, is believed to help with metabolism, energy levels and blood pressure, the researchers believe that women with less cortisol levels could also be viewed as more fertile. Since elevated levels of stress have been tied to fertility, the researchers concluded that not only are stress-free women prettier, they are also more desirable due to their fertility. The researchers did not find any cause-and-effect relationships. The conclusions are based on the small sample set that the researchers used. Several limiting factors, such as how beauty is measured, could have skewed the results.

The study was published in the Royal Society Journal, Biology Letters.

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