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Male Body Image: Satisfaction and Its Relationship to Well-Being Using the Somatomorphic Matrix

International Journal of Men's Health; Harriman Vol. 1, Iss. 2,  (May 31, 2002): 215. DOI:10.3149/jmh.0102.215

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In light of the increased recent research attention directed to the study of male body image (e.g., Pope, Phillips, & Olivardia, 2000), the somatomorphic matrix (Gruber, Pope, Borowiecki, & Cohane, 1999) was investigated in a sample of 60 male students from a Midwestern college. Significant muscle and body fat dissatisfaction was found. Contrary to past research with the somatomorphic matrix, bi-directional body fat dissatisfaction was noted, with approximately two-thirds of the participants desiring less body fat and a third desiring more body fat. Muscle dissatisfaction was significantly associated with higher depression, lower self-esteem, and less satisfaction with life. Body fat dissatisfaction was not significantly associated with any of the assessed dimensions of psychological functioning. These data indicate that muscularity concerns of college men are significantly related to psychological functioning, suggesting that this dimension of body attitudes plays a significant role in men's self-concept.

Key Words: male body image, somatomorphic matrix, muscularity concerns, body attitudes, college men's self-concept

Over the past 30 to 40 years, the male body has increasingly become a focal point of American culture (Pope, Phillips, & Olivardia, 2000). This is reflected by the increased presence of lean and muscular males on television, magazines, and movies (Bordo, 1999; Leit, Pope, & Gray, in press; Pope, Olivardia, Graber, & Borowiecki, 1999). Males are now exposed to societal and interpersonal pressures to achieve an unrealistic muscular ideal, in a manner similar to the unrealistic thin ideal that women have encountered for the past 30 years (Thompson, Heinberg, Altabe, & Tantleff-Dunn, 1999). Increased muscularity in the media has been paralleled by greater discontent with a muscular appearance among males (cf. Berscheid, Walster, & Bohrnstedt, 1972; Cash, Winstead, & Janda, 1986; Garner, 1997). In fact, recent survey data indicate that males are more dissatisfied than women with the chest/breast region of their...