Men who are obsessed with achieving the perfect abs are at a ‘significantly’ higher risk of depression, a new study has warned.
Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Harvard University have analysed the link between male body image disorder and mental health.
They found that body-obsessed men have a higher risk of not only depression, but also weekend binge drinking, and using illegal supplements – including anabolic steroids.
The study also showed that 10% of men have body image disorder, in which they think they are too fat and want to be thinner.
To reach these conclusions, the researchers interviewed 2,460 men aged 18-32 about their gym habits and views about their body.
Some common statements included ‘I feel guilty if I miss a workout,’ ‘I don’t think my chest is muscular enough’, and ‘I’m thinking of taking anabolic steroids.’
Dr Trine Tetlie Eik-Nes, who led the study, said: “The problem arises when the bodies of professional athletes like Ronaldo become the ideal for regular young men who have jobs, studies and family. Training has to be your full-time job if you want to look like Ronaldo.
“He belongs to one in a thousand of the world’s population who make their living from sports. Some people train as if they were on the national team, but they’re only exercisers.
“This is the difference we need be concerned about.
“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.”
The researchers hope the findings will encourage parents to speak to their children about healthy body image.
Dr Eik-Nes added: “Parents’ alarm bells should go off if they have a youngster who’s at the gym everyday, who just wants to eat chicken and broccoli and who consumes protein shakes or supplements all the time.
“If their whole world is about their workouts, parents should take the time to talk with them – for example, by asking questions about what they’re actually training for.”