‘Poor’ body image harms men's mental health, says study

Laura Hampson
·3-min read
The pandemic has affected how men feel about their bodies, a new study has found (Getty)
The pandemic has affected how men feel about their bodies, a new study has found (Getty)

Half of men say poor body image affects their mental health, a new study has found.

The research, from suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) and Instagram, surveyed 2,000 British men between the ages of 16 and 40 and found that 48% of respondents said their mental health had suffered due to their body image.

Over half (58%) of the men added that the pandemic has had a negative effect on the way they feel about their bodies and just 26% of respondents said they were happy with the way they look.

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One fifth (21%) of the men questioned said they don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about their body image issues and a third (35%) of men are unhappy with the way they look.

While body image and body positivity is something often associated with women (just scroll through the 7.5 million #bodypositivity posts on Instagram for proof), two in every five men (39%) feel the pressure to have a “perfect” body as well.

Comedian Russell Kane discusses male role models and ‘bigorexia' in CALM's new talks (Getty)
Comedian Russell Kane discusses male role models and ‘bigorexia' in CALM's new talks (Getty)

"Body image worries affect people of all genders, body types and backgrounds. And the conversation is much deeper than just weight or body shape,” Simon Gunning, CALM's chief executive said in a statement.

"We know that men can often feel disengaged or excluded from the conversation (around) body positivity because of unhelpful stereotypes.”

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To help combat these statistics and to get more men talking about how they feel about their bodies, CALM has introduced a series of interviews with famous faces called ‘Calm Body Talks’.

The first of these talks features Made in Chelsea star Jamie Laing who has opened up about his height and hair worries.

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Comedian Russell Kane will discuss male role models and ‘bigorexia’ (i.e. muscle dysmorphia) and ex-footballer Leon McKenzie will discuss the physical and mental impact of retiring from professional sport. The talks will also see body acceptance activist Stevie Blaine discuss self love and teenage insecurities.

During the first lockdown in 2020, CALM said it saw a 40% increase in calls to its helpline and visits by 16 to 24-year-olds to its website doubled during this time period.

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"Unquestionably, Instagram has caused the pressure for adolescent boys to be big and muscly – it is unhealthy and unattainable," Gunning added.

"This campaign tackles the issue at its core, body image on Instagram. Body image issues are massively prevalent in women and girls. The same pressures apply to men but we don't discuss it in the same way - the way we portray body image for men is decades behind. There is no debate for men on this topic."

To find out more about CALM’s Body Talks and to contact CALM’s national helpline or web chat, visit thecalmzone.net/bodytalks

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