A study commissioned by the Central YMCA, the Succeed Foundation and the University of West England‘s Center for Appearance Research in Bristol found that 48 percent of gay male respondents would exchange a year or more of their lives in exchange for a perfect body.
Even more telling: 10 percent of those men would agree to die more than 11 years earlier if they could have their ideal body right now.
We have known for a long time that the male gaze has produced body image issues, and we now see this through the eyes of this study. A total of 384 men, a quarter of whom identified as gay, were reportedly surveyed as part of the poll, with an average age of 40. Overall, only 35% of all men would trade away a year or more, but the figures jumped dramatically when only isolating the gay sub group.
Researchers point to popular depictions of gay men in media as a reason for this discrepancy. Gay men are under extreme pressure (as are women) about their bodies. A lack of diversity in body image and body depiction can contribute to the record numbers of men who are undergoing cosmetic surgery, buying exercise equipment or taking steroids.
More than 80 percent of men regularly discuss body shapes, with 59 percent admitting that doing so makes them feel worse about themselves. Fat talk among men, as well as among women, is also an issue. “Beer belly,” “man boobs” and “chubby” were among the most commonly used phrases by men discussing their own bodies as well as how other men look. The words associated with an envied body type are “six pack” and “ripped.”
Indeed, beer bellies are the biggest concern among the 384 men, followed by muscle level dissatisfaction in the upper body. A whopping 18% said they feel fat everyday, with the same percentage saying they are afraid of gaining weight on a daily basis.
Dr. Phillippa Diedrichs led the study. She explains: “This research really demonstrates that body image is an issue for everyone, and that we need to take a collaborative approach towards promoting an environment that values diversity in appearance and promotes healthy body image.”
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