New research suggests women from healthier countries prefer feminine men whilst those in deathtrap nations incline towards manly men.
University of Aberdeen researchers studied some 4,500 heterosexual women from 30 countries, aged 16-40.
The women were presented with 20 pairs of male faces; each pair consisted of the same face, but subtly altered to look slightly more “masculine” in one picture, and slightly more feminine in another, by modifying dimorphic facial traits such as brow or jaw line.
Their preferences were then compared to the health care statistics of their respective countries.
Researchers say they found a pronounced correlation between levels of healthcare and a preference for effete men, with a nation considered to have the “best” healthcare, Sweden, having 68% of its women prefer men with more feminine faces.
In the US, 48% of women preferred masculine men. Japan did not feature in the results, not that anyone doubts the inclination of its womenfolk towards sissy men.
Meanwhile, in Brazil, with the worst healthcare on offer in the sample, only 45% of the women preferred feminine men.
One researcher explains her interpretation of the results:
“The results suggests that as health care improves, more masculine men fall out of favour.
That could be why feminine looking movie stars like Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom are popular now compared with the likes of Clark Gable and Sean Connery in the past.”
She touts healthcare and not culture as a key determinant of what is considered attractive in a given nation:
“We found that women from countries with poorer health, which have higher mortality and increased incidence of communicable disease, were more attracted to masculine faces than women living in countries with better health.
People used to think beauty was arbitrary and that different cultures have different preferences.
However our research shows that preferences may instead be explained by responses to different environmental factors like a low level of health in the population.”
Such a study immediately falls foul of the “correlation does not equal causation” statistical mantra so often left out of science reporting, but the researchers aren’t having any of it:
“These new findings really do seem to show that preferences for different types of men in different parts of the world are linked to cross-cultural differences in health.
The effect remained even when we controlled for lots of other factors, such as cross-cultural differences in wealth.”
The study in its entirety can be read here.