Hundreds of thousands of men affected by body image issues – Mental Health Foundation Scotland survey

Location: Scotland

12th Nov 2019
Prevention resources and tools
Men's mental health
Body image

Hundreds of thousands of men across Scotland have struggled with body image issues, according to survey findings published by the Mental Health Foundation Scotland as part of men’s health awareness month Movember.

Almost three in ten (28%) of Scottish men say they have felt anxious because of their body image.

More than one in ten male respondents (12%) said they have experienced suicidal thoughts and feelings because of body image issues and almost one in 20 (4%) said they had deliberately hurt themselves.

Nearly one in five men (19%) said they felt shame because of body image issues in the last year.

Over a third of respondents (34%) said their body image had a negative impact on their self-esteem within the last year, while one in five (23%) had avoided taking part in social activities that would require them to show their body over the last year. This could include taking part in sports or going on a beach holiday.

The new male-specific breakdown of findings is from a survey of 1012 Scottish adults aged 18 and above carried out earlier this year.

Julie Cameron, Head of Programmes at the Mental Health Foundation Scotland said: “Body image is often seen as an issue that affects women – but it is clear from our data that it is affecting large numbers of men as well.

“Men are also increasingly being surrounded by images of idealized body types – either through advertising or reality TV shows.

“The consequences of body image issues can be serious. It is shocking that over one in ten of the men who responded to our Scottish survey said they had experienced suicidal thoughts as a result of body image issues.”

MHF Scotland, who currently co-chairs the Scottish Government’s Body Image Advisory Group, is calling on the Scottish Government and relevant industries to take action, including the regulation of social media.

It has also campaigned for reality TV shows like Love Island to avoid showing unrealistic body types.

Julie said: “There is evidence to suggest that body image issues in men are becoming more pronounced. 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 and mental health.”

Paul Browett (36) from Glasgow said he has struggled with his own body image and that the rise of social media and online advertising has helped to fuel his own insecurities.

He said: “I think the rise of social media, TV and celebrities have all created a pressure in society to aspire to a certain body. At times I’ve been unhappy with my body which has affected my confidence. I have found myself becoming jealous of others due to this and can result in me being sensitive or argumentative.

“I think society still has some way to go on how body image is perceived by others and ultimately how others react to someone’s body image. Being body conscious is not exclusive to women, yet when a man takes pride in his appearance, or has anxieties about his body, this is often met with a joke, sarcasm or a put down.”

Further advice: Body Image: How we think and feel about our bodies


All calculations extrapolating how many men in Scotland are affected by body image issues were carried out by the Mental Health Foundation.

  • The survey was carried out by YouGov. Total sample size was 1012 Scottish adults. Fieldwork was between 25 to 26 March 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish 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 is also asking 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.
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