SINGLE IN THE CITY: The body image

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First Posted: 3/10/2014

Much attention is aimed at female body image issues, but did you know that men, too, struggle with their body image?

The way in which the sexes deal with body image issues differ.

According to a 2006 study, while women tend to experience high rates of body dissatisfaction, men, on the other hand, experience body dissatisfaction, too.

While pressure exits for women to be exceedingly thin, pressure exits for men to be muscular and broad shouldered and have developed arm and chest muscles. In short, this is called having a “mesomorphic body type.”

How did this happen?

“Many speculate that frequent exposure to media portrayals of toned and muscular male bodies may contribute to men’s dissatisfaction with their own bodies,” writes researchers Deborah Schooler and L. Monique Ward. “Additionally, men have been found to rate average woman and their own romantic partners as less attractive after viewing thin-ideal images of women.”

So, it seems that both men and women are exposed to the same type of media, and that media is, in part, responsible for shaping and reinforcing certain body images. According to researchers, this has a negative impact on a person’s attitude toward their partner’s “real” body.

Body image facts:

• In Western societies, approximately 40 to 50 percent of women express some level of body dissatisfaction.

• Rates of anabolic steroid use among adolescent boys are comparable to the rates of anorexia and bulimia reported among adolescent girls.

• Peer influences exert the most powerful influence on body dissatisfaction.

As it turns out, friends, too, or peers, can have a negative impact on a person’s body image. According to a study published in the Review of General Psychology in 2011, although the media exerts some influence over one’s body image, peers also have influence.

“Peers can influence female body dissatisfaction through two main routes,” the researchers write. “First, peers may actively influence women through verbal comments, communication of beauty norms, explicit verbal comparisons, and attributions of personal value based on beauty. Peers may also passively influence body dissatisfaction by provoking internal or unconscious body comparisons.”

Moreover, to support their claim, the researchers of this study cite a study that “examined eating disorder symptom rates among Iranian women living in America and Iranian women living in Iran and found little difference between them.” This is revealing because Western media has been banned from Iran since 1979, an observation that further supports the influence of peers on one’s body image.

To conclude, that both the media and peers have influence of one’s body image remains revealing.

Source: “Average Joes: Men’s Relationships with Media, Real Bodies and Sexuality,” Deborah Schooler and L. Monique Ward, 2006.