Youthful looks, height `define beauty` in women

New Delhi: Regardless of cultural differences, the common traits that define beauty in women are youthful looks, tall and narrow waists with long arms, says a new study.

An international team, from the University of New South Wales, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Tianjin Polytechnic University, claims it is the most comprehensive analysis yet made of the effect of body shape and fat deposition on female attractiveness.

"Most studies of attractiveness have focused on torso, waist, bust and hip measurements. So, the finding that the length and girth of arms are also important adds weight to the view that it is the `whole package` that determines attractiveness," Prof Rob Brooks, who led the study, said.

He added: "Physical attractiveness is an important determining factor for evolutionary, social and economic success. The dimensions of someone`s body can tell observers if that person is suitable as a potential mate, a long-term partner or perhaps the threat they pose as sexual competitor."

The team used body scanning technology to produce three-dimensional images of the bodies of 96 Chinese women, aged between 20 and 49. The images were altered to remove clothes and physical traits like facial features, skin colour, hair colour and texture to avoid racial or cultural bias.

The images were then shown to a sample of 92 Australian adults -- 40 men and 52 women -- aged between 18 and 58 and mostly of European descent.

Their attractiveness ratings were compared to those of a group in Hong Kong, again to avoid cultural bias. Both sample groups were asked to rate the models` attractiveness on a seven-point scale.

The team then explored the statistical results, focusing on age, body weight and a range of length and girth measurements.

There was a strong level of agreement between all the groups: younger, taller and slimmer women were rated as more attractive. Women with narrow waists, especially relative to their height, were also preferred.

The study also showed that BMI (body mass index) and HWR (hip-to-waist ratio) were both strong predictors of attractiveness. Scans of taller women who had longer arms were also rated highly, however leg size did not contribute significantly to the ratings.

Prof Brooks said: "When models are stripped of their most obvious racial and cultural features, the types of bodies we find most attractive tend to be shared by men and women across cultural divides.

"Our mating, pairing and social preferences have been fashioned by the benefits of choosing the best possible mates, partners and group mates, wherever circumstances allow.

"Of course, these result only tell us what the ideal body is like but in reality most people have little chance to team up with someone who has their ideal body shape. In the end, no matter how much you might want someone, you have to find someone who wants you."

The findings have been published in the `Journal of Evolutionary Biology`.