Statistics on Males and Eating Disorders

Prevalence in Men

  • The rate of eating disorders among college men ranges from 4-10%. A recent study on a large university campus found that the female-to-male ratio of positive screens for eating disorder symptoms was 3-to-1 (Eisenburg, Nicklett, Roeder, & Kirz, 2011).
  • Large scale surveys concluded that male body image concerns have dramatically increased over the past three decades from 15% to 43% of men being dissatisfied with their bodies; rates that are comparable to those found in women (Garner, 1997; Goldfield, Blouin, & Woodside, 2006; Schooler & Ward, 2006).
  • In adolescent and college samples, between 28% and 68% of normal-weight males perceive themselves as underweight and report a desire to increase their muscle mass through dieting and strength training (McCabe & Ricciardelli, 2004; McCreary & Sadava, 2001).
  • In a 2011 study looking at how men are affected by binge eating, researchers found 37.1% of men who did binge eat experienced depression compared to only 12.6% of men who did not binge. Striegel, R. Bedrosioan, R. Wang, C. Schwartz, S. (Int J Eat Disord 2011)

Less Likely to Seek Help

  • Men with eating disorders are less likely to seek professional help than women. Higher levels of gender role conflict and traditional masculine ideals  are associated with negative attitudes toward seeking psychological help (Berger, Levant, McMillan, Kelleher, & Sellers, 2005)
  • Although the prevalence of binge eating is the same among men and women, the number of studies that include men is far fewer and the number of men who receive treatment is well below the number of women who get treatment.  Striegel, R. Bedrosioan, R. Wang, C. Schwartz, S. (Int J Eat Disord 2011)


Media, Body Image Ideals and Eating Disorder Behaviors among Men

  • Men, while also influenced by our culture’s over-valuing of thinness, are often more concerned with a combination of issues related to weight, body shape and function (e.g. strength).  Generally, men believe they need to be both lean and muscular to meet perceived societal expectations. 
  • Media exposure to male body ideals as well as comparison of oneself to these ideals are positively correlated with the drive for muscularity in men (Leit, Gray, & Pope, 2002; Morrison, Morrison, & Hopkins, 2003).
  • The muscularity of ideal male body representations has increased from the 1970s to 1990s (Labre, 2005). These portrayals present an extremely, and largely unattainable, muscular ideal male body type (Lever, Frederick, & Peplau, 2006; Schooler & Ward, 2006), which is equivalent to the unattainable thin female ideal perpetuated by Barbie dolls (Olivardia, Pope, Borowiecki, & Cohane, 2004).
  • The increase in the sexual objectification of men in media images is documented (Rolhinger, 2002) and found to be related to body dissatisfaction in men (Arbour & Martin Ginis, 2006).
  • If an individual is taking performance-enhancing supplements to become more muscular and then engages in weight lifting, they are at increased risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. 


Muscle Dysmorphia

  • Muscle dysmorphia, a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder, is an emerging condition that primarily affects male bodybuilders. Such individuals obsess about being inadequately muscular. Compulsions include spending hours in the gym, squandering excessive amounts of money on ineffectual sports supplements, abnormal eating patterns or even substance abuse. (Published online 1 September 2008 in Wiley InterScience ( DOI: 10.1002/erv.897)