Face shape is linked to a person’s wellbeing and how attractive they are to mate with, a study found.
People perceive slim faces to be healthier, with others assuming low facial fat is associated with good blood pressure, the findings add.
Researchers have come up with ‘healthy’ faces according to the ideal body mass index (BMI), percentage body fat, blood pressure and overall wellbeing.
Study author Dr Ian Stephen from Macquarie University in Sydney, said: ‘The results suggest that our brains have evolved mechanisms for extracting health information from people’s faces, allowing us to identify healthy people to mate with.
‘The findings provide strong support for the hypothesis that the face contains valid, perceptible cues to physiological health’.
The researchers hope the findings may lead to the future development of a tool that diagnoses health conditions based on patients’ faces.
High blood pressure affects around 32 per cent of adults in the US and one in four in the UK, putting people at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Can you spot who is healthiest in this line up? Scroll down for the answer
The top image’s lower amounts of facial fat makes people assume the individual has a healthier BMI than the woman in the bottom picture. A healthy BMI is linked to a reduced risk of obesity
How the research was carried out
The researchers analyzed photographs of 50 Malaysian Chinese, 50 Caucasian and 97 black men. All of the photographs were taken face direct to camera with a neutral expression.
The study’s participants’ BMI, percentage body fat and blood pressure was measured.
The apparent health of the people in the photograph was rated by other participants of the same ethnicity.
Their faces were then assessed according to their size and shape.
In a second part of the study, 26 Caucasian people manipulated 60 photographs to ‘make the face as healthy as possible’.
The above slimmer face also suggests a lower percentage body fat, supporting wellbeing
‘The face contains cues to physiological health’
Results reveal face shape and ethnicity are significantly linked to blood pressure.
Findings also show people perceive reduced BMI and facial fat as making individuals look healthier.
Dr Stephen said: ‘We found that the participants altered the faces to look lower in fat, have a lower BMI and, to a lesser extent, a lower blood pressure, in order to make them look healthier.
‘This suggests that some of the features that determine how healthy a face looks to humans are the same features that the computer model was using to predict body fat, BMI and blood pressure.
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The find has been hailed as a ‘real advance’ as current hypertension medications frequently cause intolerable side effects including anemia, constipation and dizziness.
Certain cancer drugs work by cutting off tumors’ blood supply, which results in reduced blood pressure and therefore could offer a potential treatment for hypertension.
Lead author Dr Anton Wellstein from Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington, said: ‘It’s rare that a single class of drugs can be used for such different conditions, but that is what our study strongly suggests.
‘The finding could offer a real advance in hypertension treatment because although a number of high blood pressure drugs are now available, they work by different mechanisms that are not suited for all patients.’
The person in the top image seems to have healthier blood pressure than the less slim bottom
Dr Stephens added: ‘The results suggest that our brains have evolved mechanisms for extracting health information from people’s faces, allowing us to identify healthy people to mate with or to form cooperative relationships with.
‘The findings provide strong support for the hypothesis that the face contains valid, perceptible cues to physiological health, and while the models are at an early stage, we hope that they could be used to help diagnose health problems in the future.’
The results were published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
The woman in the top image was found to have the greatest overall health based on face shape
The woman in the top far-right image is thought to be the healthiest based on her face shape. This is based on the face’s slimness, which suggests a healthy weight and blood pressure