Buff Male Models May Hurt Men's Self-Esteem
Ads With Muscular Male Models May Hurt Men's Body Image
WebMD News Archive
May 7, 2004 -- Commercials featuring topless models with buff
bodies and unattainable physiques may make the viewers feel depressed and
unhappy with their bodies.
Sound familiar? It is, but this time it's the men's turn to
Researchers say many studies have shown how images of
beautiful, Barbie-like models negatively affect women's self-esteem, but this
study is among the first to look at how a "culture of muscularity" may
affect men's self-esteem.
In the study, researchers found that watching TV images of
muscular, shirtless men lifting weights and selling cologne and deodorant left
men feeling depressed and unhappy with their own muscles.
Researchers say those feelings may make men more likely to
engage in dangerous behaviors, such as using steroids or exercising
"The level of muscularity and attractiveness that are
idealized in the media often are not attainable for the average man," says
researcher Stacey Tantleff-Dunn, professor of psychology at the University of
Central Florida. "Men see more of a discrepancy between how they want to
look, or think they need to look, and the image they see in the mirror. Such
discrepancies can cause the dissatisfaction and low self-esteem that lead to
extreme and often unhealthy actions, such as eating disorders, exercising too
much, and steroid abuse."
Media Images Affect Men's Self-Esteem
In the study, published in the February issue of Journal of
Social and Clinical Psychology, researchers had nearly 160 male college
students watch an old episode of Family Feud, but they were divided into
two groups that saw different commercials during the show.
One group saw ads for financial, telephone, and automobile
companies that featured men over age 30 dressed in business or casual attire in
a home or business setting. The other group saw commercials that featured
muscular, young, and bare-chested men hawking cologne or deodorant.
Researchers found the men who saw the buff male model ads
reported feeling more depressed and less satisfied with their own muscles than
the men who saw the neutral ads.
They say the findings suggest that more research is needed to
see how this "culture of muscularity" affects the moods, dieting, and
workout habits of men.
"The key will be to help people develop realistic
expectations about their appearance, as well as the appearance of others, and
avoid buying into ideals that are impossible or unhealthy to attain," says