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Research shows body image no longer solely a ‘women’s issue’

Photo by Joseph Wayne Buchanan

The ‘Toxic Muscularity Comes Clean’ trend identified in the  2022 Global Wellness Trends Report reveals that bulging biceps and rippling abs have had a negative ripple effect on male body image.

Compiled for the Global Wellness Summit (GWS), this trend report maintains that the conspiracy of silence around the rising crises of muscle dysmorphia for men and boys is finally being addressed.

Says the GWS report: “For a decade, we’ve seen so much forward progress around women’s body positivity in a culture that has long held such unrealistic standards for the female form: You can’t even say ‘weight loss’ now. What’s shocking is how a rising male body image crisis – fed by an endless stream of perfect, ripped Adonises in Hollywood, across social media, and in fitness culture – have remained in the closet.

“Our 2022 trend, ‘Toxic Muscularity Comes Clean’, is about how the male equivalent of the conversation about unhealthily thin female models and Barbie dolls is finally happening. The problems of muscle dysmorphia that increasingly plague men and boys globally is starting to get addressed – even if the movement is still underdeveloped.

“The trend presents a growing body of research that reveals that body image is no longer solely a ‘women’s issue’. For instance, a 2021 UK survey from a male suicide prevention charity and Instagram found that half of men aged 16-40 had struggled with their mental health because of how they feel about their bodies – and half pointed the finger at mainstream and social media.

“In this trend report we explore how ‘toxic muscularity’ can be literally poisonous. Anabolic-androgenic steroid abuse is now hiding in plain sight in the improbable shape of actors, athletes, fitness influencers and action figures. The consequences, both mental and physical (sometimes fatal), will soon be hard to ignore. And steroids are merely the most notorious of an ever-expanding pharmacopeia of image- and performance-enhancing drugs (IPEDs) that have spread far, far beyond the fringes of ‘muscle culture’ and backstreet gyms – to high-end health clubs and even high schools.

“Steroids and other IPEDs not only impact the men and boys who take them, but also all those exposed to chemically-enhanced muscular ideals (and digital manipulation is a rising problem) – so basically all males in our culture. Toxic muscularity is contributing to the rise in male eating disorders and muscle dysmorphia (also known as ‘reverse anorexia’ or ‘bigorexia’): the pathological preoccupation that you’re not muscular enough, no matter how big and lean you may be.”

New international support groups such as DUDE Mental Health and actors who represent the muscular ideal, like Richard Madden or Robert Pattinson, have become the loudest critics of the muscle-worshipping culture being force-fed to men. Countries such as France and Norway have enacted new laws against digitally manipulated commercial photos. Brands such as Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty and Bonobos are blazing the trail for larger and less shredded male models.

For more information about the report click here 2022 Global Wellness Trends - Global Wellness Summit

Look out for the April 2022 issue of the Professional Beauty digital magazine which includes an article on how to deal with your client’s body dysmorphia.

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