Single men are stinkier than guys in relationships, according to the results of a sniff test. However, while pungent body odor (BO) and singleness might seem like they go hand-in-hand, the study authors say that a strong whiff may actually help unattached men signal their availability to women.
Previous research has shown that single males tend to have higher testosterone levels than partnered men due to the sexual competition associated with bachelordom. Bond maintenance may be facilitated by low testosterone, which could be why levels of the sex hormone tend to decline in males who are in committed relationships.
It has also been suggested that testosterone may contribute to BO, all of which indicates that single males may have a stronger aroma than those who are spoken for.
To investigate, the researchers supplied 91 men with a plain white T-shirt and instructed each participant to wear their new equipment for one day. The 46 singletons and 45 partnered men were also advised to engage in moderate exercise to ensure that “a significant amount of sweat was absorbed onto the underarm of the T-shirt.”
After collecting the sweaty tops, the study authors then passed the soiled armpits beneath the nostrils of 82 heterosexual women. Each woman had the pleasure of sniffing six different garments and also viewed a photograph of the man responsible for each smell.
“Consistent with our hypothesis, single men’s BO was rated as smelling stronger than the BO of partnered men,” write the study authors. “We also found that single men’s faces were rated as more masculine than partnered men’s faces, but only among partnered women.”
Unpacking the stench of romance, the researchers explain that pongy pits may help to direct women towards suitable partners. “From an evolutionary perspective, it may be advantageous for women to be able to detect the chemosignals that connote coupledom and ultimately avoid courting partnered males (especially with offspring) due to the relatively reduced resources they can offer,” they say.
Unfortunately, however, strong BO doesn’t necessarily increase a man’s chances of finding love, as single guys’ fragrances were not rated as sexier or more attractive than those of partnered men. Interestingly, partnered women also described the faces of coupled men as more trustworthy and loyal than those of single guys, although single women failed to see these qualities in either group.
Coming back to the issue of smell, the study authors offer an alternative explanation for the heightened BO of bachelors, saying that those who lack a partner may simply be less hygienic. “Evidence for this assertion comes from research showing single men have poorer physical and mental health outcomes than partnered men which may manifest as poorer hygiene and therefore BO,” they write.
The research has been published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
[H/T: Science Alert]