Health problems including those associated with blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and body fat could show up in your face shape, according to new research.
Your face shape may provide an insight into your health
It’s well known that how your face looks including the jawline, cheekbone structure and facial skin quality contribute to attractiveness. Dating apps like Tinder are largely based on the theory that you’ll swipe right thanks to an attraction to the person’s facial appearance.
But is face shape simply about personal taste or does it indicate more about the individual? Are you swiping right because you’re drawn to a person’s good health as much as you are their facial features?
A recent study led by Macquarie University in Sydney has found the shape of your face could provide an insight into your health. A person’s BMI, percentage of body fat and even blood pressure reading may be revealed in subtle facial appearance cues. And, we’re subconsciously picking up on these cues.
Beauty (and health) in the eye of the beholder
The study involved a computer that was trained to recognise the three health indicators (BMI, body mass and blood pressure) in a subject’s face using 138 delineated landmark points.
In study 1, the faces of 272 Asian, African and Caucasian individuals maintaining a neutral expression were photographed.
In study 2, 26 Caucasian participants manipulated their face using a slider app to make their face look as healthy as possible.
“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,” explained Dr Ian Stephen, study author and Macquarie University psychology researcher.
Interestingly, the change in people’s faces didn’t have to be dramatic for participants to identify their health status. A face with a higher body fat percentage, for example, was only subtly different from that of someone with a higher BMI, yet the participants were able to point out the differences.
The results of the study suggest that the shape of your face varies with aspects of your physiological health and can be used to identify healthy and unhealthy individuals.
“There’s always been this ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ idea which essentially says that what we find attractive is just arbitrary and there is nothing inherent about an attractive person,” says Dr Stephen.
Simply put, you may not be swiping left just because you’re not attracted to the prospective date. You may be subconsciously swiping past someone who carries health risks for obesity, heart disease or low BMI.
This is not the first study to look at a person’s face shape in relation to attractiveness.
A previous study by the University of Toronto found facial cues including expressions allow people to determine whether you’re rich or poor.
Using feedback from over 1,000 female clients, London facial cosmetic surgeon Julian De Silva, has created the “world’s most desirable face” based on facial contours, curves, angles and proportions.
The health of facial skin has also been identified as an attractive physical trait that positively influences another person’s perception of an individual’s health.
“Evolutionary theory has chipped in on that and essentially says that attractiveness is essentially a mechanism for recognising healthy, fertile, appropriate mates and also healthy friends and allies, because there are obvious advantages to being friends with or mating with people who are healthy,” explains Dr Stephen.