Women with more attractive romantic partners may inappropriately pursue dieting and seek a slim body, increasing their risk of developing eating disorders, a study has found. Researchers from Florida State University in the US found that women evaluated as less attractive were more motivated to diet and be thin if their husbands were attractive. "The results reveal that having a physically attractive husband may have negative consequences for wives, especially if those wives are not particularly attractive," said Tania Reynolds, a post doctoral student at Florida State University in the the US. Researchers also found that extra motivation to diet, however, did not exist among women judged more attractive than their husbands. As for men, their motivation to diet was low regardless of their wives' attractiveness or their own. There might be social factors playing a role in women's disordered eating, researchers said. "It might be helpful to identify women at risk of developing more extreme weight-loss behaviours, which have been linked to other forms of psychological distress, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and dissatisfaction with life," Reynolds said. Researchers examined 113 newly-wed couples - married less than four months, average age late 20s, living in the Dallas area in the US - who agreed to be rated on their attractiveness. Each participant answered a questionnaire focusing in part on their desire to diet or have a thin body. A full-body photograph was taken of every participant and rated on a scale of 1 to 10.
Two teams of undergraduate evaluators studied the photos: one focused on spouses' facial attractiveness, while another looked at body attractiveness. Previous research has shown that women tend to over- perceive just how thin their partners want them to be and, as a result, may inappropriately pursue dieting and a thin body. "If we understand how women's relationships affect their decision to diet and the social predictors for developing unhealthy eating behaviours, then we will be better able to help them," Reynolds said. The study was published in the journal Body Image.