"Stress, both acute and chronic, has profound effect on how we process new information both cognitively and emotionally," explained Dr. Igor Galynker, associate chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Beth Israel Medical Center.
Previous studies have also found that men prefer heavier women when they are in a situation where resources are low or inaccessible. Researchers suggested that this may be due to the belief that skinnier women are more susceptible to illness, irregular periods, or that they may not be able to have a healthy pregnancy.
"If you live in an environment where food is scarce, being heavier means that you have fat stored up as a buffer and that you must be higher social status to afford the food in the first place," Tovee explained. "Both of these are attractive qualities in a partner in those circumstances."
The study, published in the journal PLoS One, also found that the stressed men were more open to a wider range of female body types in comparison to the control group. Researchers believe these findings expose ways people choose partners to date and marry.