A national study released earlier this year by Chapman University psychologists found that some degree of body dissatisfaction is experienced by up to 40 percent of men, and that most are concerned about being judged on physical appearance and about being compared to other men in social situations.
The psychologists reviewed the overall results of five large-scale studies that recorded men’s attitudes toward their own bodies and also compared reports from heterosexual and homosexual men. The total number of study participants from all five studies totaled 111,958 heterosexual men and 4,398 homosexual men, with an average age range of 35 to 50.
A greater percentage of homosexual men reported higher body dissatisfaction, felt more pressure to be attractive, felt more strongly they were judged on their appearance, and were more likely to avoid sex because of their negative feelings about their bodies. As might be expected, men of both preferences who were medically classified as obese were most likely to report negative feelings about their bodies, while men who were classified as either normal weight or overweight were more satisfied with their appearance.
As discussed in a previous blog, approximately half the overweight adults in the U.S. are men and up to one-quarter (25 percent) of people diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia are men. Men respond to the same social pressure to be fit from peers and media as women, and they have many of the same emotional issues that can lead to disordered eating. They’re less likely to think about their weight and more likely to think about their size and shape. Men are more likely to over-exercise to build muscle than to purge or go on a diet to lose weight, which can sometimes make them appear healthier than they actually are. A man’s physical strength and physique may be covering up psychological turmoil and feelings of vulnerability.
One of the more significant differences between heterosexual and homosexual men reported by the Chapman study was attitudes toward cosmetic surgery. Homosexual men were much more likely to be interested in surgery, consider surgery, and to have undergone some form of cosmetic surgery than their heterosexual counterparts. Overall, however, the Chapman study found that the majority of all men reported feeling at least “okay” or “good” about their face, their weight, their muscle size, their muscle tone, their overall attractiveness, and how they look in a bathing suit.
Frederick DA and Essayli JH. Male body image: the roles of sexual orientation and body mass index across five national U.S. studies. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. 11 February 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/men0000031. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/294276565_Male_Body_Image_The_R...
Strother E, Lemberg R, Stanford SC and Turberville D. “Eating Disorders in Men: Underdiagnosed, Undertreated, and Misunderstood.” Eating Disorders. Oct 2012; 20(5);346-355.