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Young men — but not older ones — react negatively to attractive male public figures

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When viewing music video clips of muscular male singers, young men experience a significant negative mood change, according to a 2015 study published in Journal of Health Psychology.

Prior to the study’s completion, little research had been published regarding age differences in men’s reactions to seeing attractive or muscular men.  Male body dissatisfaction has been discussed in the literature—but not in regards to older men, said Kate E. Mulgrew, principal investigator and corresponding author of the study.

“Little is known about body image in middle-aged and older males despite calls by researchers to expand the literature beyond adolescents and young adults,” said Mulgrew.

Researchers recruited 116 Australian participants, aged 18 to 77.  Participants completed mood and body satisfaction questionnaires, then viewed one of three video clips: a music video featuring an “attractive” male singer; a music video featuring an average-looking male singer; or a video clip containing scenery.

Prior to beginning the study, the research team determined attractiveness of the male singers by surveying a different sample of participants.

After viewing the clips, participants rated their mood and body satisfaction a second time.

Participants who viewed scenery showed no significant difference in mood or body satisfaction.  Middle-aged and older men also showed no significant difference in any of the conditions.  Younger men, however, showed significantly more anger after viewing the attractive musicians—and they also reported more body comparison than the other age groups.

“Concentrated viewing of idealized male singers can have immediate detrimental body image outcomes for young (but not middle-aged or older) adult males,” said Mulgrew.

Interestingly, younger men who viewed video clips of the average-looking musicians showed an increase in mood and body satisfaction.

“These findings suggest that younger…men are particularly susceptible to idealized depictions of the male appearance,” Mulgrew added.

Men may be prone to experience negative health consequences stemming from negative body image.

“Men’s dissatisfaction with height, body fat, and muscularity has been linked to a range of negative psychological outcomes increased risk of eating disorder symptoms,” said Mulgrew.