“Muscles work like cosmetics”: muscle building and men’s mental health

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A new study has assessed the impact of preoccupations with muscle building and societal stereotypes of the male physique on men’s mental health.

The study focused on men’s mental health and physical habits, and found that young men who are overly preoccupied with muscle building are at a higher risk of depression, weekend binge drinking, using anabolic steroids, and dieting unrelated to obesity.

The psychology of muscle building

“I feel guilty if I miss a workout.”

“I’m thinking of taking anabolic steroids.”

These and similar statements were made by 2460 men aged 18-32 years who participated in Trine Tetlie Eik-Nes’ study.

The study is the first of its type in Norway and internationally to investigate the relationship between a preoccupation with muscle building and men’s mental health. The Norwegian University of Science and Technology argues that the study makes it clear that boys and young men struggle much more with body image disorders than we have been aware of.

According to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, “Muscles work like cosmetics” for men who are preoccupied with body building.

The impact on men’s mental health

The study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Harvard University also showed that also shows that ten per cent of men have the more common type of body image disorder which is that they believe they are too fat and should become thinner.

Trine Tetlie Eik-Nes said: “Girls are supposed to be thin and have small waistlines. Boys should have wide shoulders and big muscles. Those are the narrow ideals that young people grow up with today. It turns out that this unrealistic body image is as challenging for men as for women.”

Reassessing the way we view men’s eating disorders

“We’ve been aware of young girls and eating disorders for a long time, and how unfortunate it is to grow up with role models that are so skinny. Studies have been carried out on young men too, but they were asked the same questions as girls. Boys aren’t looking to be thin. They want to have big muscles. So the questions given to girls are totally wrong if we want find out how young men see themselves and their own bodies,” says Eik-Nes.

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