Proof that Dadbod Is a Turn-On? New Study Links Weight, Height and Love Life


Overweight and obese men have the largest number of lifetime sex partners (eight!), according to new research. Not to reignite the debate, but this fuels the fire that women can’t resist a good “Dadbod” — such as that of Jason Segel, pictured here in 2010. (Photo: Getty Images/Jean Baptiste Lacroix)

Your body type could have a direct impact on your sex life. That’s the major takeaway from a new Chapman University study published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology that linked a person’s height and body mass to the number of sexual partners they have.

For the study, researchers analyzed the results of an online survey of more than 60,000 heterosexual men and women with a mean age of 37.

The height and BMI of participants directly impacted how many partners they had. Among the findings:

For men:

  • Only men classified as “very short” had a lower median number of sexual partners (five), compared to taller men (seven).

  • Men who were overweight and obese had the most sexual partners (eight), followed by those with a normal weight (six).

  • Underweight men had the least sexual partners (four).

For women:

  • Underweight women had fewer sexual partners (five) than their normal weight (six) and overweight (seven) counterparts.

  • Women classified as “very short” had less sexual partners (five) than those who were taller (seven).

Lead study author David Frederick, PhD, an assistant professor in health psychology at Chapman University, tells Yahoo Health that he was surprised at the weak link between a man’s height and number of sex partners. “Research has consistently shown that women say they prefer relatively tall men,” he says.

Evolutionary psychologist David Buss, PhD, a professor at the University of Texas who did not work on the study, was also surprised. “It is known that women have mate preferences for ‘tall’ men,” he tells Yahoo Health. “Tall men get more ‘hits’ on Internet dating sites, so short or very short men are disfavored.”

Related: What Is ‘Dadbod’ — And Is It Healthy?

However, Buss notes that most women want men to be taller than they are, so relative height may be more important than overall height.

As for women, Frederick says there is “no clear theoretical reason” why very short women would have fewer sexual partners.

While the findings that overweight men had more sexual partners than normal weight men (eight and seven partners, verses six, respectively) sound surprising, Frederick says it’s what he expected to find. “Overweight and normal men fit the conventional ideals for men,” he says. “Men are expected to appear tough or athletic. Very slender men can face stigma for not appearing powerful.”

Frederick points out that the term “overweight” is a little misleading — it’s a medical classification using BMI, or Body Mass Index, but he says that very few people would perceive that “overweight” men are too heavy.

The same can be true for an “obese” BMI, which isn’t necessarily an indicator that someone isn’t physically fit. Men who are incredibly muscular, like The Rock, may have a BMI that indicates they’re obese, even though they have low body fat.

Related: There’s Science Behind the “Dadbod”

Why do underweight women have fewer sexual partners? Frederick says it may have to do with a woman being more self-conscious about her body, or it could be linked with the fact that slender women are considered “highly attractive” in the U.S. “This allows them to be highly selective about who they choose as mates,” he says. “They are in the best position to expect commitment, resources, and attractiveness from male partners.”

Here’s a breakdown of the actual results:

For men:
By BMI, median number of sexual partners:

  • Underweight (four)

  • Normal weight (six)

  • Overweight (eight)

  • Obese I (eight)

  • Obese II (five)

  • Obese III (five)

By height, median number of sexual partners:

  • “very short” (five)

  • “short” (seven)

  • “average” (seven)

  • “tall” (seven)

  • “very tall” (seven)

  • “extremely tall” (seven)

For women:

By BMI, median number of sexual partners:

  • Underweight (five)

  • Normal weight (six)

  • Overweight (seven)

  • Obese I (seven)

  • Obese II (seven)

  • Obese III (seven)

By height, median number of sexual partners:

  • “very short” (five)

  • “short” (six)

  • “average” (six)

  • “tall” (seven)

  • “very tall” (seven)

  • “extremely tall” (six)

Here’s how the height of participants was classified:

  • “very short” (5′2″–5′4″ for men; 4′11″ or less for women)

  • “short” (5′5″–5′7″ for men; 5′0″5′2″ for women)

  • “average” (5′8″–5′10″ for men; 5′3″5′5″ for women)

  • “tall” (5′11″–6′1″ for men; 5′6″5′8″ for women)

  • “very tall” (6′2″–6′4″ for men; 5′9″5′11″ for women)

  • “extremely tall” (6′5″ and above for men; 6′0″6′2″ for women).