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Hard Times

In June 2003, psychologist Dr Terry Pettijohn from Pennsylvania's Mercyhurst College announced the results of a study of the effect of economic hardship on Playboy playmates. Researchers compared the faces and figures of Playmates of the Year between 1960 and 2000 with an annual "hard times measure" which tracked changes in unemployment, marriage and murder rates over the same period. They discovered that during difficult years models tended to be slightly older, heavier and taller, with larger waists and waist-to-hip ratios. "In short," Pettijohn explained, "we want someone to have fun with when times are good, and we want someone to take care of us, and themselves, when times are bad." The fullest-figured Playmate of the Year on record? Anna Nicole Smith -- who appeared in 1993, one of the worst years in terms of economic and social indicators.

[Pettijohn speculated that social and economic trends influenced Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, who had chosen each Playmate of the Year in the magazine's history. (Researchers found similar results in a study of female film stars between 1932 and 1995.)]

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