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KUSA - Psychologists and sociologists have known for years that attractive people tend to be more successful than their unattractive counterparts. They have more friends, better jobs, increased salaries, and higher life satisfaction. What is not known is when this phenomenon starts and how it affects a person's life over time.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Texas at Austin sought to answer these questions in a comprehensive 2014 study. They discovered this attractiveness gap starts in high school and gets more pronounced over time.

The researchers examined data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, a project that evaluated students from over 80 high schools over a period spanning several decades. They also conducted an in-depth study of students at one particular high school to confirm their statistical results.

What they found was that attractiveness makes a big difference in students' lives. Those students who were rated as attractive had increased social opportunities, more support from teachers, higher self-esteem, and better grades. By contrast, the students who were rated as unattractive had to overcome more social hurdles than the attractive students, and they tended to be less successful.

These results held true over time, with the attractive students leveraging their gains in high school into college and early career success, while the unattractive students started to fall more and more behind.

According to 9NEWS Psychologist Dr. Max Wachtel, early gains can have a huge impact on students.

"It turns out the researchers found the success these attractive high school students had put them on a path to continue being successful. Each gain builds on itself, and by later adulthood, it can help explain why attractive people are more successful than unattractive people," he said.

One interesting finding from the study: attractiveness is not always helpful when it comes to achieving success.

"The highly attractive kids sometimes had difficulty succeeding in school because they became too busy with social activities like dating and partying. In some cases, extreme attractiveness can actually hinder a person's level of success," Dr. Wachtel said.

But the research is fairly clear: students who are attractive are more likely to succeed than less attractive students, and they are more likely to capitalize on those gains into adulthood.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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