Pressure To Be More Muscular May Lead Men To Unhealthy Behaviors

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2006-08-10 22:05

Men's Health and Body

Women are not the only ones in American society who feel pressure to achieve the perfect body.

New research suggests that men feel pressure to have muscular bodies, and that influence can lead some to symptoms of eating disorders, pressure to use steroids, and an unhealthy preoccupation with weightlifting.

"Men see these idealized, muscular men in the media and feel their own bodies don't measure up," said Tracy Tylka, author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University's Marion campus.

"For some men, this can lead to unhealthy and potentially dangerous behaviors to try to reach that ideal."

Tylka presented her research at a symposium August 10 in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association.

Of course, women have been pressured for decades to achieve a thin ideal, but this is a more recent phenomenon for men, Tylka said.

"Instead of seeing a decrease in objectification of women in society, there has just been an increase in the objectification of men. And you can see that in the media today," she said.

To test how this emphasis on muscularity has affected men, Tylka studied 285 college men. She asked them a variety of questions to determine how much pressure to be muscular that they felt from family, friends, romantic partners and the media.

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The findings showed that the more pressure the men felt, the more they felt they had to live up to the ideals.

"They start to believe that the only attractive male body is a muscular one. And when they internalize that belief, they judge themselves on that ideal and probably come up short, because it is not a realistic portrayal of men," she said.

While other studies have suggested men can become preoccupied with their muscles, Tylka said this research shows men are also very worried about their body fat.

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