London, Aug 9 (IANS) Men usually prefer slim and younger-looking women as they appear healthier and more fertile, but during tough times stressed out men turn to larger women for comfort, says a research led by an Indian-origin psychologist.
Stress can cause men to "reassess their priorities", and panic makes them treasure more homely qualities such as a larger body size that signifies access to basic resources like food, according to the Telegraph.
Body fat is also linked to age, and a larger waistline may mean that a woman is more mature, and therefore better equipped to cope with threatening situations, says the study by Viren Swami and Martin Tovee, from Westminster University.
Previous research showed being hungry can cause men to prefer larger women.
The researchers split 80 volunteers into two groups, with half undertaking a series of stressful activities such as mock job interviews and mental arithmetic tests to make them feel tense.
Both groups were then shown pictures of a range of different female body shapes, ranging from emaciated to obese, and asked to rate them in terms of how attractive they were.
The results showed that men in the stressed group rated their "ideal" figure as significantly larger than those in the control group.
Both groups gave broadly similar ratings to slimmer women, but the stressed men were more likely to find women of normal weight or overweight attractive.
The pictures were numbered according to their body mass index (BMI) on a scale of one to 10, with one representing emaciated and 10 obese.
The largest figure deemed attractive by stressed men was 7.17, which fell in the "overweight" category, while the upper limit of attractiveness for men from the non-stressed group was 6.25, classified by the scale as a "normal" weight.
Stressed men rated a figure of 4.44 as the ideal figure while non-stressed men found women most attractive at a lower level at 3.90.