Body Image in Young Adult Men

Two studies trace the effects of cultural differences and attitudes toward sports doping.

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June Volume 25, Number 3
©2014 iaedp

Recent research is challenging an old mindset that body image is more important to women than to men. Results of some studies indicate that body image concerns are equally important among adolescent boys and girls (Inquiries Sport Phys Edu Psychol Rev. 2013; 11:65), and around two-thirds of adolescent boys are dissatisfied with their bodies. For young adult males, body image concerns can be equally divided between losing weight and a desire to gain muscle mass (Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2011; 8:119).

Does country matter?

Cross-cultural differences among young adult males may affect the incidence of body image disorders. When an international study led by Debra Franko, PhD, of Northeastern University, Boston, examined adherence to masculine norms, body image, and attitudes toward muscularity, leanness and thinness, the results revealed significant cultural differences.

As reported at the International Conference on Eating Disorders in New York City this past March, a survey of more than 500 males showed that males from Australia and the US scored somewhat similarly on body image concern measures, including the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory, the Drive for Muscularity Scale, the Drive for Leanness/Thinness scales, and the Body Esteem Scale. Males from the United Kingdoms scored lower than those in Australia and the US. Swedish men had the lowest scores on all the body image concern measures.

Leniency in sports doping rules and increased body image concerns

In a second study, two Australian researchers uncovered a connection between body dissatisfaction, weight change behaviors among adolescent males, and supplement use in sports programs that have more lenient attitudes toward doping. Drs. Zali Yager and Jennifer O’Dea of Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia, recently reported the results of their study of 1,148 male adolescents 11 to 21 years of age (J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014; 11:13). Drs. Yager and O’Dea’s study was funded by the Australian government and the Australian Anti-doping Research Program.

Young men with higher body dissatisfaction scores were more open to the use of doping in sports. Current weight loss efforts and consumption of energy drinks and vitamin/mineral supplements were also correlated with support for doping in sports. Young men who were weight lifters and those who regularly used powdered protein drinks were not as supportive of doping

Drs. Yager and O’Dea suggest that using a combined prevention approach targeting both body dissatisfaction and sports doping could have a beneficial effect on the physical and psychological health of young males.

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