Millions of men in the UK affected by body image issues – Mental Health Foundation survey

12th Nov 2019
Body image
Men's mental health

According to findings published by the Mental Health Foundation, millions of men in the UK have struggled with body image issues.

According to the survey findings, almost three in ten adult men (28%) aged 18 and above have felt anxious because of body image issues.

One in five (21%) said concerns about body image had caused them to dress in a way that hid their body or parts of their body in the last year.

One in five (22%) male respondents said they had negatively compared themselves to others because of body image in the last year.

More than one in ten of the men surveyed (11%) have experienced suicidal thoughts and feelings because of body image issues and 4% of male respondents also said they had deliberately hurt themselves because of body image issues.

The new male-specific breakdown of the findings is from a survey of 4505 UK adults aged 18 and above carried out earlier this year of which 2,103 were male. The survey was carried out to assess the impact of body image on people in the UK.

Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation Mark Rowland said: “Body image is often seen as an issue that only affects women – but it is clear from our data that it is affecting millions of men in the UK as well.

“Men are also surrounded by images of idealised body types – through advertising, reality TV shows, or digital media. It is important to recognize how this media environment can impact men.

“The consequences of body image issues can be serious. Shockingly, almost one in 20 of the men who responded to our survey said they had deliberately hurt themselves due to body image issues.

“We must recognise the significant negative impact a media environment can have on mental health.”

The Mental Foundation calls on the UK Government and relevant industries to take action, including regulating social media. It has also campaigned for reality TV shows like Love Island to avoid showing unrealistic body types.

Mr Rowland continued: “There is evidence to suggest that body image issues in men are becoming more pronounced and increase the risks of poor mental health. Men also can find it more difficult to talk about their mental health and to seek help.

“But none of this inevitable. There is much we can do as a society to reduce pressures on men and improve their mental health.”

For those seeking help managing body image issues - advice can be found on the Mental Health Foundation website here.


Notes to editors:

  • All calculations extrapolating how many people UK-wide are affected by body image issues were carried out by the Mental Health Foundation.
  • The survey was carried out by YouGov. The total sample size was 4,505 adults. Fieldwork was conducted between 25th - 26th March 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and represent all UK adults (aged 18+).
  • The Mental Health Foundation is asking that social media companies sign the Be Real Campaign’s Body Image Pledge and investigate new ways of using their platforms to promote positive body image and ensure that a diversity of body types is presented positively to their users.
  • The Mental Health Foundation also asks that social media companies have clear systems for users to report bullying and discrimination and targets for action to be taken. They should give users greater control over the content they see in an accessible way.

For further information, please contact the Mental Health Foundation press office at [email protected] . Tel 0207 803 1110, or out of hours 07786 437249


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