A team of researchers at the University of Georgia and the University of Kansas found attractive people do tend to have more social relationships and therefore an increased sense of psychological well-being.
However, the researchers said they found the importance of attractiveness was not universal, but determined by the social environment where people live.
The study, published in the December issue of Personal Relationships, found attractiveness does matter in more socially mobile, urban areas -- and from a woman's point of view actually indicates psychological well-being -- but it is far less relevant in rural areas.
Dr. Victoria C. Plaut of the University of Georgia and her team said in urban areas individuals experience a high level of social choice -- a free market of relationships makes attractiveness more important for securing social connections and consequently for feeling good. However, in rural areas, relationships are less about choice and more about who is living in the community.
Furthermore, urban women need not have below-average looks to experience a diminished sense of well-being and social life, Plaut said.