Body image has not traditionally troubled the average male as he pulls on his jeans and selects his favourite football shirt from the dirty laundry basket. But a new study suggests that such caricatures are not only unfair but underestimate the angst that modern man experiences about his appearance.

Bombarded by images of male athletes, models and celebrities as well as increasing pressure from their partners to look good, men are having a crisis of confidence about their bodies. A Norwich Union Healthcare survey found that men were increasingly critical of their physical appearance, and disliked parts of their bodies.

Of more than 500 men interviewed, a third said they hated their stomachs, a fifth were unhappy with their legs and a quarter had issues with their entire body. The growth of men's magazines may be to blame - the research found that men aspire to emulate the almost-unattainable physiques of celebrities such as the footballer David Beckham or the actor Brad Pitt.

Twenty-six per cent said they were under pressure from their partners to work out and keep in shape. Such is the pressure, that a quarter of men told white lies to their partners about how often they exercised or went to the gym, while 36 per cent exaggerated abouthow much they could lift. One in five men also lied about his weight - once considered a solely female preserve.

Dean Hodgkin, a health and fitness expert,advised men to focus on their health rather than just their looks, and to talk to fitness experts on how to achieve a healthy lifestyle to feel more confident about their bodies. He said the tendency to compare physiques with others could ultimately make men more miserable.