Military medical information and data from civil registers of death and marriage have been used to study the role of physical characteristics and health conditions in explaining access to marriage for the male population of Alghero, a small city located in Sardinia Island (Italy), at the turn of 19th century. Literature data about contemporary populations have already demonstrated the influence of somatic traits in the mate choice. The results presented here show that men with low height and poor health status at the age of 20 were negatively selected for marriage. This holds true also in a society where families often arranged marriages for their children. This pattern of male selection on marriage was found to be particularly marked among the richest and wealthiest SES groups. Our hypothesis is that this social group carefully selected for marriage those individuals who were apparently healthier and therefore more likely to guarantee good health status and better life conditions to offspring. In evolutionary terms, the mate choice component of sexual selection suggests that the height of prospective partners could be claimed as one of the determinants, along with other environmental causes, of the observed higher stature of men belonging to the wealthiest social strata of the Alghero population.
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