Female Attractiveness Determined by Body Composition

A study was conducted to assess the effect of various body shapes and where fat is deposited on female attractiveness, other than the convenient indicators like age, waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) or body mass index (BMI). Australian and Chinese men and women gave a similar rating to the attractiveness of images generated by computers of female bodies. The results showed that measures of girth (upper arm, thigh, ankle, bust and waist) and length (overall height and vertical distance between waist and hip) are more significant indicators of attractiveness than WHR or BMI.

The physical characteristics of a person can provide information about the individual as a potential mate, or even the threat he or she may present as a sexual competitor. Studies of attractiveness of female bodies have always focused on the waist, hips and bust, particularly on overall weight (BMI) or abdominal girth (WHR). “Studies of WHR and BMI in industrialized countries show that WHR of 0.7 and BMI of 18.5 to 20 are both correlated with high attractiveness.” The authors in this study, therefore, tried to understand not only the role of other traits and their interaction in determining attractiveness, but also whether those traits are shared consistently across cultures.


  • Using a body scanner, full scans were obtained from 96 adult Chinese females ranging in age from 20 to 49 years. The scans were then exported to a three dimensional modeling software, for creating video clips for each subject.
  • Ninety-two adults were recruited to rate the attractiveness of each subject shown in the video, on a “seven-point Likert scale.” An attractiveness score below 1 was considered less attractive, and scores above 1 were counted as more attractive.
  • The effects of age, height, weight, waist and hip dimensions were analyzed using the attractiveness scores.
  • Scores from some Chinese raters were compared with Australian raters to provide the cross-cultural robustness to the ratings.
  • Key findings

  • Overall, body scans of younger, taller and lighter women were rated the most attractive. There was less variance among the raters regarding age as a determinant factor for attractiveness (46 percent), as compared to indices like BMI (55 percent) and WHR (70 percent).
  • Multiple factors exploring the waist and hip dimensions (height, waist girth, hip girth, vertical distance between waist and hips) showed the highest variance (92 percent) among the raters in attractiveness.
  • Statistical analysis applied on eight linear and girth measurements showed both positive (height, vertical distance between waist and hips, and arm length) and negative correlation (waist, ankle, thigh, bust and upper arm girth) with attractiveness.
  • There was no difference in the ratings among Chinese and Australian raters.
  • Shortcomings
    The samples included in the study were mostly from females with higher WHR, suggesting that inclusion of females equally with high and lower WHR could have prevented observational bias among the raters. The extents of physical traits that determine attractiveness vary among countries, cultures and socio-economic status, which needs to be studied further.

    The study provides a thorough analysis of the effect of body shape and adiposity (girth) on female attractiveness. Indices of youth and adiposity are only part of body attractiveness. Other variables like height, vertical distance between waist and hip, arm length, upper arm girth, bust girth, waist girth, thigh girth and ankle girth showed a more positive correlation with attractiveness. “Not all fat, and thus not all measures of adiposity, have the same effects on fitness or well-being.” Therefore, the girths of limbs, bust and waist relative to overall height are more important measures than overall adiposity or waist adiposity.

    For More Information:
    Effect of Multivariate Factors on Determining Female Attractiveness
    Publication Journal: Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 2010
    By R. Brooks; J. P. Shelly; University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

    *FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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