That’s the magic number, according to a man who has spent much of his research career studying the waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). His name is Dr. Devendra Singh, and his numerous publications support the hypothesis that not only is a WHR of 0.7 or below ideal for a woman’s attractiveness, it seems to have an adaptive value. Women with low WHRs live longer and are less likely to develop diabetes or heart disease.
However, this preference only holds true at low or average body weights. From this review by Krzysztof Kościński:
Although men tend to prefer women having low WHR, the inter-individual variance in preferences is large and lower WHR is preferred in light and average than heavy women. This indicates that the preference for WHR, and possibly human physical preferences in general, cannot be encapsulated in a simple statement, such as that the most attractive WHR value is .7.
So there’s more to the story. Overall, Singh’s conclusion is as follows:
Such widespread appeal of low WHR suggests that people have evolved mental mechanisms to judge body features indicative of good health as attractive, meaning that some standards of beauty are not arbitrary or constructed. We conclude that a better understanding and appreciation of the beauty-health linkage can be empowering to women.
Singh has found that low WHR increases activity in the reward center of the brains of male participants who viewed images of silhouettes at various WHRs. There are cross-cultural preferences for low WHR according to Singh, suggesting that there is a biological reason, one that is adaptive, for men’s preferences for low WHR.
The literature however is conflicting. Are bigger bodies that have low WHR’s still considered attractive? According to the research, they still can be, but are less attractive than lower-weight bodies. This study suggests that it’s not even WHR that’s the most important, but total body fat…of course a statement like that can easily be misinterpreted to suggest that having less fat is more aesthetic. What they likely mean is that it’s the hip fat that results in a low WHR that really determines what’s attractive. As hip fat increases, so generally does abdominal fat, and past a certain point, it’s not as attractive.
This post is a primer on this topic, because much more needs to be said about the evolutionary role of hip fat and its benefits to your health. Overall, the conclusion is that a low WHR is indeed universally attractive and is an indicator of fertility and thus may explain a universal preference for low WHR, however this preference is true at low to average body weights rather than high body weights.
In addition, a low WHR should be correlated with other traits of attraction, like facial features. However that will be the subject of a future post. Thus, I don’t think focusing just on WHR is necessary. And I’d also think that this preference depends on the male. Do different males prefer different WHRs? Maybe the male’s testosterone levels predict what WHR’s he finds most attractive. There are a variety of body types that are all attractive thus I do not want to suggest that there is one universally attractive WHR without seeing further research.