It's a common misconception that people who are physically attractive and have facial symmetry are also in better health. However, a team of researchers are now disproving that theory, stating that the facial symmetry of young people is not connected to their health.
Those with more facial symmetry are generally found more attractive than those with less. However, almost everyone has some slight deviations in symmetry. Perhaps one eye is slightly higher than the other. Whatever the case, scientists have historically believed that many deviations are due to health problems at a young age, such as malnutrition, infection or even genetic mutation. This leads many to think that those with more facial symmetry are healthier than their peers and even have "good genes."
However, that isn't the case, at least according to a new study by Brunel University London. This study looked at health histories for nearly 5,000 teens, both male and female, with different degrees of facial symmetry. Researchers looked at health problems for each individual, particularly focusing on how often these people got infections and were sick, along with how often they had symptoms each year.
Researchers found absolutely no link between facial symmetry and health issues, debunking the "good genes" theory.
"These findings call into question the assumption that people have a preference for symmetry in faces because it provides a cue to health during development," says Nicholas Pound, co-author of the study.
However, researchers discovered that facial symmetry could be related to IQ, at least in a small way. Researchers also looked at facial symmetry at age 8 and discovered that those with less deviations had one percent higher IQs at age 15 than their peers.
Symmetry is something the human brain responds to, not just in people, but also in animals and nature. A "beautiful" butterfly could just be a bug with symmetrical patterns on its wings. Studies have shown that humans prefer symmetry in almost everything. It could be that the human brain finds symmetric patterns easy to interpret.
Facial symmetry may also be affected by social status, at least according to one study. That research discovered that the symmetry of older faces could indicate one's childhood socioeconomic status. However, the results of that study weren't conclusive.
"The results indicated that it is deprivation in early life that leaves some impression on the face," says Professor Ian Deary from the University of Edinburgh. "The association is not very strong, meaning that other things also affect facial symmetry too."