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Gender Differences in Body Image Dissatisfaction

Body image dissatisfaction is associated primarily with women. However, a study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12538) suggests the condition may also affect men—and may be more psychologically harmful for them than it is for women.

The primary goal of this study was to understand how body dissatisfaction affects a person’s quality of life and if the effect differs by gender. The researchers, from the University of Sydney in Australia, gathered information from 966 men and 1,031 women on body dissatisfaction, physical and mental health-related quality of life, and eating disorders.

Perhaps not surprisingly, body dissatisfaction was universally linked with lower quality of life and greater psychological distress. Dissatisfaction appeared to be more prevalent among female subjects; however, men who experienced it tended to be at greater risk for physical and mental problems. Between 1998 and 2008, extreme dieting and purging increased more quickly in males than females. And among people with a binge-eating disorder, men were more likely than women to experience impairments in mental health-related quality of life.

“In addition, men report feeling less worthy if they need to ask for help, and this has been associated, in our research, with an increased likelihood of men with eating disorders remaining undiagnosed (4 times more likely in our study),” explained lead researcher Scott Griffiths, PhD, from the university’s School of Public Health.

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