“The Very Heavy Burden”: A Mixed-Methods Investigation of Media and Masculinity Effects on Male Body Dissatisfaction

Buonaiuto, E. (Flinders University, Murdoch University), Monson, M. (Murdoch University)

Body dissatisfaction often leads to eating disorders, anxiety, and depression in females. Whilst previous research has largely focussed on female populations, there are, however, growing rates of male body dissatisfaction. In the present study, sixty-three Australian males aged 18-35 years were randomly presented with images of: lean, muscular men (Condition 1); slim men with minimal muscle tone (Condition 2); or landscapes (control). The influence of media imagery and masculinity, on male body dissatisfaction and self-esteem, was investigated by controlling for adherence to media ideals and traditional masculine norms. Exposure to images of lean, muscular men resulted in higher body dissatisfaction compared to other conditions. Exposure to images of slim men decreased participants’ self-esteem. The difference in body dissatisfaction scores remained significant after accounting for adherence to masculine norms, but was bound up with adherence to media ideals. Qualitative results supported influence of media imagery on body dissatisfaction and revealed a challenge to traditional masculine norms. The present findings highlight a possible shift of norms about masculinity and the importance of instructing males to critically engage with media.


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Body Image