WOMEN in countries with poor health records are more likely than others to be attracted to masculine-looking men, according to a Scottish study.
The researchers at Aberdeen University yesterday also said their findings backed previous biological theories that women perceived masculine traits in men as a signal of genetic health – the lower the level of health in a country, the higher the preference among women for masculine facial traits.
The findings – part of an ongoing university research study into facial attractiveness and how people choose a mate – are published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.
Dr Lisa DeBruine, co-director of Aberdeen University's Face Research Lab, said: "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."
The study involved more than 4,500 women from 30 countries in Europe, America, South America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The women, aged between 16 and 40, were asked to give their preference from a choice of 20 male faces. They were shown two images of the same face side by side, but one picture was subtly altered so it had more masculine traits, such as a bigger jaw and heavier and lower brow.
Dr DeBruine explained: "We found that women in countries like Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, where the health is poorer, were more attracted to masculine-looking faces than women in countries like Belgium and Sweden, which have lower mortality rates and higher longevity."