Young, physically active men may be at risk of developing an Adonis Complex because of an obsession with matching society’s idea of the perfect body. That is the conclusion of research presented today, at the Annual Conference of our Division of Health Psychology in Brighton, by Mike Eynon from the University of the West of Scotland. The Adonis Complex includes health problems related to body image, such as exercise dependence eating disorders and depression. It arises from a secret obsession with matching society’s picture of the ideal male body. To see who was at greater risk of the developing the Adonis Complex, he asked 218 men aged 16 to 67 (144 active, 74 inactive) to complete a variety of questionnaires and surveys. These covered social comparisons, internalization of societal messages, drive for muscularity.
Mike Eynon analysed the results and found that the more active men reported a higher drive for muscularity and were more likely to internalize societal messages about the ideal athletic body. He also found that younger men were significantly more likely to compare themselves against this ideal body image. Mike Eynon says. “These findings suggest it is young, physically active men who are most likely to take society’s picture of the ideal male body seriously and to compare themselves with that image. This means they are more susceptible to the Adonis Complex and its associated health problems.”
For men, such criticism is relatively new. Women have been bombarded for decades with images of impossibly perfect girls in magazines, films and on TV, and psychologists believe this exposure has contributed to the rise in eating disorders. Some experts now argue that the media is having a similar impact on men’s self-esteem.Steve Bloomfield of the Eating Disorders Association (Beat) says men account for about 10 per cent of the UK’s 90,000 anorexics and bulimics, and warns that their numbers are growing. ‘The causes are the same in men and women: trauma, depression and social pressures like the media. As concern with the body beautiful rises, so do male eating disorders. Our society is saturated with images of the people we ought to find attractive, and there is considerable pressure on adolescent boys to conform to these ideals,’ she adds.