Body image dissatisfaction among males across the lifespan: a review of past literature

J Psychosom Res. 2004 Jun;56(6):675-85. doi: 10.1016/S0022-3999(03)00129-6.


Objective: Most past research has focused on body dissatisfaction among females. This paper provides a review and evaluation of studies that have examined body dissatisfaction among males. Body dissatisfaction in males has been associated with poor psychological adjustment, eating disorders, steroid use, exercise dependence, as well as other health behaviors. It is therefore important to understand the level of body dissatisfaction, as well as the factors that are related to this construct.

Method: The review is divided into three sections: body dissatisfaction among children, adolescents and adults. Within each section, levels of body dissatisfaction are examined, as well as the research that relates to sociocultural influences on body dissatisfaction. Difficulties in drawing valid conclusions from the data due to methodological problems are highlighted.

Results: From the current data, it would appear that there are strong similarities in the levels of body dissatisfaction of male and female children, with most children demonstrating high levels of body satisfaction. During adolescence, boys are about equally divided between wanting to lose weight and increasing weight, but there are few studies that have examined a desire for increased muscle size. In adulthood, men evidence a stronger desire to lose weight as they get older.

Conclusion: Overall, past studies have primarily focused on questions that are relevant to females, and there is a need to conduct studies that evaluate areas of body dissatisfaction that have greater relevance for males. This will then allow a better understanding of the relationship between body dissatisfaction and psychological and behavioral problems experienced by males at all stages of the lifespan.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Body Composition
  • Body Image*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Concept*
  • Sex Factors
  • Weight Loss