Dr Sarah Grogan, senior lecturer in the psychology department at Manchester Metropolitan University, and her student, Rebecca Murphy, have found that men are affected unconsciously by the pictures of male models in the media.
Following a survey of 28 male and female undergraduates with no history of eating disorders, they believe that men may have even more difficulty that women in achieving the 'ideal' shape.
In a paper presented at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society in Blackpool, she says that other research has suggested that media portrayal of images can prolong anorexia and bulimia in women and may even be a cause of it. 'From the findings in this experiment, we might expect to find many more men suffering from such eating disorders in the future,' she said
'I think we are seeing more and more exposure of men in the media generally of groups like the Chippendales and Adonis (a second American strip group). There is interest in what effect this would have on men's body image. It may be that the Chippendales represent a male ideal. They have this V-shaped body and are highly muscled.
'The number of men with eating disorders is increasing, suggesting there may be a correlation between the portrayal of male bodies in the media and with anorexia.'
But the difficulty for men is that they neither want to be too thin nor too fat. Men were having to try to achieve this muscular shape and exercising and controlling their diet were ways of doing this.
In the study, men and women first took tests to measure their self-esteem and their body image. They were asked to rate how satisfied they were with their bodies, how fat they thought they were and whether they thought other people found them attractive. A week later they were each shown 16 pictures from Cosmopolitan, Vogue, GQ, Company and For Women (a sex magazine for women).
Pictures of women were shown to women and of men to men. The pictures emphasised the body rather than the face. The students were then tested again on self-esteem and body image.
The men originally had higher self- esteem and a better body image, but after seeing the pictures the self-esteem and body image of men and women dropped significantly, Dr Grogan said.
'They were very surprised that their scores had dropped and did not want to believe that they had as a result of seeing the photographs. They said things like the effect was bound to be only short-lived,' she said.
She wants to conduct a bigger survey to discover how much the media images of 'ideal' male and female bodies affect men and women.
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