Ads Influence Male Body Image Too
April 27, 2004
A lot has been written about the effect of skinny models on eating disorders in women. A recent study suggests that men may be similarly influenced by ads. Researchers exposed 158 male college students to television ads that were either "full of lean, muscular and often shirtless young men" or had more neutral content. They found that students who were watched the lean men showed more body dissatisfaction and depression compared with students who watched the neutral commercials.
Men, Too, Are Sensitive to Media Body Ideals
April 21, 2004
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Waifish models are often blamed for the poor body image many women have, but those well-toned lads in after-shave ads may leave men feeling inadequate too, new research shows.
The study of 158 male college students found that those who were made to watch TV ads full of lean, muscular and often shirtless young men showed more body dissatisfaction and depression compared with their peers who watched "neutral" commercials.
The findings suggest that media images of the "ideal male body" contribute to poor body image in men, according to study authors Daniel Agliata and Dr. Stacey Tantleff-Dunn of the University of Central Florida.
They report their results in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.
Poor body image has been linked to low self-esteem, depression and unhealthy eating habits, with much of this research focused on women. But there is evidence that body dissatisfaction is on the rise among men, at a time when the idealized male physique is becoming ever more buff while the typical American man's waistline is expanding ever wider.
In the new study, the researchers surveyed college students on two different days. On the first day, the men were questioned on their beliefs about appearance. One week later, they viewed videotapes that included commercials. One group saw ads that featured fit, lean young men being used to sell cologne, deodorant and the like. Ads shown to the other group typically starred middle-aged and older men selling cars and telephone plans.
Men in both groups then completed scales designed to measure body satisfaction and mood.
Agliata and Tantleff-Dunn found that students in the group who watched the trim and toned actors reported more "muscle dissatisfaction" and depression than those who saw the neutral commercials.
Since the average person is exposed to nearly 25 appearance-related commercials each day, the authors write, the negative effects seen in this study are "a cause for concern."
Future research, they conclude, should look into the long-term effects of such media images -- and why some people take these body ideals to heart, while others are unfazed.
SOURCE: Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, February 2004.