Male athletes also suffer from body image problems, study shows

[Embargoed for release until 8 A.M. ET Friday, August 8, 2003, to coincide with a presentation at the meeting of the American Psychological Association in Toronto.]

TORONTO While eating disorders among athletes are often seen as a problem mainly for women, some male athletes may also have their own issues regarding body image, new research suggests. But the eating and body image problems for men may be different than they are for women.

A pilot survey of elite male athletes at one university found that about one in five believed they aren't sufficiently muscular. While female athletes in the study said they wanted to lose weight (an average of 6.8 pounds), men wanted to gain weight an average of 3.2 pounds.

The findings showed that 17.5 percent of athletes in lean sports showed symptoms of eating disorders, compared to 9.2 percent of athletes in non-lean sports, such as basketball, football and hockey.

"Some male athletes see pictures in men's fitness magazines of big, extremely muscular men and feel that they don't measure up," said Jennifer Carter, a psychologist at the Ohio State University Sports Medicine Center.

Carter, who works with athletes at Ohio State, conducted this study of 882 athletes at the university, 57 percent of whom were men. She presented the results August 8 in Toronto at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association.

If male athletes feel they are not lean and muscular enough and combine that with unhealthy behaviors, such as use of performance-enhancing drugs it could result in a body image disorder known as muscle dysmorphia.

This study showed that about 1.1 percent of male athletes may suffer from this disorder. Carter said this is one of the first studies to ask male athletes questions that could support such a diagnosis.

"There hasn't been a lot of research about eating disorders among male athletes, but I think it may be a growing problem,

Contact: Jennifer Carter
Ohio State University

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