General News — 06 July 2016

Poor body image is an issue for young men, who are often suffering in silence, a new study has found.

In the first large-scale study into male body image, researchers at the University of Sydney have found that men with bodybuilding and other body image issues are up to four times more likely than females to be undiagnosed.

While many more women among the 2000 respondents were dissatisfied with their bodies, the study also found men with image issues suffer more psychologically.

They were at high risk of extreme dieting and purging, and were far more likely to suffer depression.

The data, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, suggests the use of anabolic steroids, which is strongly linked to male body dissatisfaction as well as eating disorders and muscle dysmorphia, or “bigorexia”, is increasing.

Lead researcher Dr Scott Griffiths says the problem is exacerbated by the stigma associated with males suffering from what tends to be seen as a female problem.

“Men report feeling less worthy if they need to ask for help,” Dr Griffiths said.

Sydney man Mitchell, 23, has battled anorexia on and off from the age of 11 and has felt the psychological distress caused by an eating disorder.

With the support of his family, a compassionate PE teacher and hard work, Mitchell is now in a “really great place”.

He says everywhere you turn men and women are confronted with a new idea of what’s beautiful or what’s masculine.

Mitchell wants people to realise that eating disorders have no gender.

“I did not have a male eating disorder. I was a male who had an eating disorder,” he told AAP.

“It can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time, at any age.”

Men often found it hard to speak out about their body image issues because of the “stiff upper lip” mentality in Australia, he said, but they didn’t need to suffer in silence.

“There are so many things that men are afraid to say and we just need to change that,” Mitchell said.

Dr Griffiths says more community awareness and targeted intervention programs for men are needed to address this “growing health issue”.

This article first appeared on ‘SBS‘ on 4 July 2016.


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