A landmark new study by researchers at the University of Melbourne, Gay Bodies Worldwide, will track attitudes to body image among gay and bisexual men in several countries.
The conversation around eating and body disorders has long focused on females, but experts are increasingly conscious of men developing an unhealthy obsession with gaining muscle, Melbourne University research fellow Dr Scott Griffiths said.
“More and more men and boys are increasingly seeing their appearance as a domain that they have to excel in and project control over for others,” Dr Griffiths told ABC News.
“It’s not surprising then that more and more boys are succumbing to eating disorders and the like.
“There is some evidence that gay and bisexual men are more vulnerable than heterosexual men to eating and body image disorders, and to using appearance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids, which would suggest a greater need for research.
“When we talk to boys they’ll often mention social media, which can become that social competition with hierarchies within in.
“There’s no gene in the genetic code of boys and men that immunises them from those pressures.”
The study will be led by the Dr Scott Griffiths and the Physical Appearance Research Team (PART) at the University of Melbourne, and as many as 3.5 million gay and bisexual men in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US will be invited to participate through ads on hookup app Grindr.
The men will be asked a series of questions on their thoughts, beliefs, feelings, insecurities and desires about physical appearance.
They’ll be asked about body preferences and what they’re attracted to; appearance-related discrimination, including around weight, height and skin colour; eating disorders; steroid use; cosmetic surgery; use of social media and more.
The participants will then be surveyed multiple times over five years, making the study one of the largest involving gay and bi men in history.
“Findings from Gay Bodies Worldwide will transform our understanding of the psychology of male physical appearance and will help us develop cutting-edge treatments for gay and bisexual men with life-threatening body and eating disorders,” Dr Griffiths said.