Study finds body image disorder among gay and bi men


When people think about body image or eating disorders, they usually imagine young, impressionable girls who come to hate their own bodies because they don’t match unrealistic advertisements, TV shows and movies. And, in fact, most eating disorder awareness and assistance programs are aimed at women.

However, a 2007 study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that women aren’t the only ones who need such programs, as gay and bisexual men may be just as much at risk (or even higher risk) for poor body image and  eating disorders as women. Thus, instead of just focusing on women, it is imperative that eating disorder programs focus on all groups.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and directed by Dr. Ilan H. Meyer, associate professor of clinical Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, and Dr. Matthew Feldman, of the National Development and Research Institute. They surveyed 516 New York City residents, including 126 straight men. The rest were gay or bisexual men, or women.

Their findings indicated that less than 5 percent of heterosexual men suffered from eating disorders of any kind, while more than 15 percent of gay or bisexual men had at some point in their life. […] When questioned about the underlying cause of the high rates of eating disorders among gay men, Dr. Meyer hypothesized that the predominant values and norms propagated in the gay community promoted a very body-centric outlook. He went on to compare the primary drive to engage in eating disorders among gay men to those of heterosexual women: high societal expectations about physical appearance, and pressure from others to maintain an ideal body weight.

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