Growing up, most everyone was part of a group or clique. Did you ever notice that the rich kids were consistently more so physically attractive than the other groups of people? Constantly having softer facial features and often better physiques than those of lesser income?
This is no coincidence. The consistently better looks of this group of people can be attributed to their lifestyle, as affluence allows these children to live a life which is frequently much less stressful than those who are poor or middle income.
These children never face food insecurities, they never feel the social stigma or anxiety caused by lacking some certain type of clothing or marker of popularity, and they never are subject to conflicts within the household that arrive from financial pressure. On top of this, these children are given access to the pleasant things they want, all sorts of fun, activities, hobbies, and vacations.
The relative lack of stress and social anxiety leads to decreased cortisol in these children. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and this gets released in any sort of situation that is stressful. There are other stress hormones of adrenaline and norepinephrine, and these likely also play a significant role as well.
There is a biological reason as to why having high levels of cortisol would cause somebody to become physically unattractive. Naturally, if this person had high cortisol levels, this means they were constantly facing food insecurity, constantly facing physical threats to their lives, or otherwise consistently existing in a stressful situation that is potentially harmful.
Biologically, people instinctively would avoid reproducing with these people because this would mean that their offspring would have a much lower chance of being successful. If a person is already starving or being physically harmed, putting a child in that same situation is not a recipe for success.
This increase in cortisol has noticeable physical effects. Cortisol often causes people to eat to excess. As cortisol is often released by starvation or food insecurity, the instinctive response to feeling stressed is often to eat food. This leads to weight gain, which is a marker of physical unattractiveness in modern society for a variety of reasons such as being a marker of stress, lack of self-control, and poor dietary choices, but more so a sign of general unhealthiness.
The effect of cortisol goes beyond this. As cortisol is the hormone released during stress, this means it is biologically designed in a manner that it increases the probability that you survive in stressful situations. If stress-induced cortisol-release didn’t increase the probability of your survival, it wouldn’t have been selected in favor of, meaning it wouldn’t be passed down through generation after generation to the point of becoming a baseline facet of the human mind.
As we can understand that stress hormones are designed to increase the probability of survival in stressful situations, then we can deduce what effects these may have upon the body.
One of these responses would be the hardening of the bones, especially around the face. This serves a dual purpose in stressful situations, as the face becomes more resistant to physical blows with thickened bones, but more importantly this also creates a naturally more so menacing and threatening face. When a person looks visibly threatening, they are less likely to be victimized, as the victimizers instinctively see a higher risk for the reward they want by victimizing people. This visibly threatening appearance would be akin to sorts of camouflage or color patterns in animals that cause potential predators to be afraid of them.
Another reason that people may find visibly hardened faces to be less attractive is because this indicates these people themselves may be more prone to physical violence, accustomed to a much harder life, and more conditioned to resort to desperate measures, simply on account of the desperate times this person has traditionally faced.
It is important to note that cortisol does decrease bone density at high enough levels, so this visible hardening is likely not the result of extreme stress, but moderate yet consistent stress that does not interfere with calcium uptake.
The survival advantage of apparently “hardened” bones in the face can go beyond aesthetic, as scientists recently have discovered that the bones create a necessary potentiating hormone for adrenaline in the bones, known as osteocalcin.
Adrenaline, which is typically seen as what induces the “fight-or-flight” reaction in an animal, cannot function without this hormone to actually enable the adrenaline to function. Larger bones, especially a thickening of the skull, would give more blood flow through the bones and access to this bone-released hormone, which in turn makes the person more able to react rapidly in stressful situation.
The secondary reason as to why the rich are often more physically attractive is the traditional argument of sexual selection. This basically means that the rich people have the power to consistently select the most physically attractive mates available.
These men or women selected as mates don’t have to be rich; they just have to be physically attractive. This means that genetics causing a person to be physically attractive would effectively be concentrated among the rich, who consistently take the most attractive mates.
This would be two-fold reinforced, as if these mates were not rich, but from a modest life, yet still became physically attractive, this would likely indicate some form of hormonal or psychological advantage for physical attractiveness.
These people are possibly less biologically sensitive to stress and cortisol than other people, and this causes cortisol to have a reduced effect upon their physical appearance. These people could also be genetically psychologically inclined to somehow avoid or avert conflict, as this would also serve to reduce the general stress level of the person.
This would be very beneficial to children who are raised in a household where stress and conflict was averted or avoided at an above average level, as this would in turn cause the amount of stress hormone released by the children to be reduced as a result of decreased conflict.
A third cause would be exposure to biological pollutants and other agents that can have an adverse effect on human health. As physical attractiveness is meant to be a sign of physical health and ease of living, these people would then become visibly unattractive due to the hazardous and harmful conditions they exist within.
Rich people would more than likely avoid living in areas with heavy pollution, though many poor and middle-class people also live quite far away from hazardous levels of pollution. While this can certainly be detrimental to somebody’s health and thus their physical appearance, severe exposure to these chemicals does not explain the phenomena of the physically attractive rich in areas with low industrial activity.
The reason for this article is an attempt to shine light on the apparent paradox that rich children and adults are consistently more so attractive than others. Not only were these the popular and stylish kids in school, but also the good looking children, something that cannot be bought outright.
If wealth had nothing to do with physical attractiveness, then physical attractiveness would exist at comparable levels across the board, which in my experience is seldom true. One can write this off entirely due to sexual selection of the rich, but that does not explain the few rich children that end up becoming visibly unattractive.
These children exhibit the symptoms of high cortisol, such as weight gain, aggression, and visibly hardened facial aesthetic. This would indicate that while they are rich, these children still exist within a stressful environment. That somehow these children, over the course of their youth, through external or internal stressors, have consistently had high enough levels of cortisol and other stress hormones that this had made them physically unattractive.
This powerful influence of stress also helps to explain why some poor and middle class children will have a comparable level of aesthetic, be comparably as good looking. While the rich kids always had the best looking people in their groups, there were always a few standouts from other cliques, just with far less frequency than among the rich kids.
This would indicate that these children, despite being poor or middle class, were reared in a situation, or by parenting techniques, that produced the lower levels of stress within the child, and thus minimized the detrimental effect stress has upon the appearance human body.
The reason why these hormones are so important is again because by natural logic, people are naturally physically attracted to people with the highest probability of survival, thus the highest safety, the highest quality of life, and the lowest amount of threats to their life.
These factors are why humans would find somebody to be physically attractive in the wild, and this means that physical traits upon the must be blatantly visible to observers as the result of this lifestyle. When physically visible, this allows other humans to infer that this person is safe, well-fed, and comfortable, leading the observer to then find this person to be physically attractive.
We can all understand that “People are attracted to happy people”, “You look like shit when you’re stressed out”, but the thing is that these attractions and unattractions must exist for a biological reason, otherwise we humans, as biological entitles, would not experience these sorts of phenomena related to how we infer physical attraction.
Of course there is a good deal about physical attractiveness that is subject to chance and genetics. That being said, even if these factors were controlled for, then the influence of a person’s life and environment would more than likely produce visible effects upon the physical attractiveness of a person.
If two identical twins were separated at birth, one was raised in an abusive and stressful home, while the other was raised in a pleasant, stress-free environment, after these children were raised to adulthood, it is more than likely that the child subjected to the stress-free life would be visibly different, as well as visibly more so attractive, than the one subjected to the stressful environment.
In men, however, this lack of stress can be a double-edged sword of sorts. The stress-free life produces soft features and a pleasant appearance. This is always seen as a good look for women, but for men, this can cause them to appear boyish, effeminate, or childlike.
The look of hardened bones on a man, one of a high-stress, high-conflict life, produces a savage, threatening, and menacing looking man, but also a strong and aggressive man at that. This is seen as physically attractive because despite living through this stressful and abusive life, this man has survived these hardships.
Naturally this would mean this man has fought for himself, defended himself, and survived. Despite showing the visible signs of being threatened and endangered, the fact that he has survived these events would then in turn make him more attractive to those who are seeking a mate, because they can infer that this man has the capacity to fight and defend himself, even in times of hardship.
Do understand that this is a deductive argument, and it is unlikely that one could really produce functional experiments to prove or disprove this argument, such as the experiment with identical twins mentioned above.
This topic is also a controversial one, in that due to being visibly able to tell that a person is unattractive, this likely indicates a higher level of stress, and in typically non-threatened children such as the rich, this could be a sign of abuse of some form, either by the family or peers of this child.
This would also send a message that appears to be “classist”, as one might believe the argument states that “rich people are physically more so attractive than the poor”, which is not the argument.
The argument is just that low-stress lives lead people to become physically more so attractive, and that rich people just coincidentally live low-stress lives at a higher rate than poor people. Should a poor family be able to reduce the amount of stress in the child’s life, even though a means such as mindfulness or mediation, then the poor child would still reap the benefits of increased physical attractiveness that come from living a lower-stress life.
This is just a theory, so take it with a grain of salt. I just believe this is a fairly reasonable conjecture to explain why the rates of physical attractiveness were consistently higher among the rich children in school, which I noticed as a non-rich child.