In a recent study published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, Australian researchers examined the relationship between self-reported gender role endorsement and body-image concerns in males. Research participants included 24 males diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, 30 males who use gyms, and 21 males diagnosed with muscle dysmorphia (a condition that occurs when a person believes that his/her muscles are not big enough but often have above-average musculature.)
Through self-report questionnaires, participants were measured on how well they conformed to Western ideas and norms related to masculinity and femininity. These questionnaires had measures of scales including self-reliance, domesticity, emotional control, winning, investment in children and modesty, among others. Those men diagnosed with anorexia nervosa had significantly higher scores on scales related to femininity, and those diagnosed with muscle dysmorphia had significantly higher scores on scales related to masculinity. The control group of 30 male gym users didn't differ statistically on either the scales related to femininity or masculinity.
This underscores the idea that for men who are dissatisfied with their bodies, gender role endorsement (whether masculine or feminine) serves as no protection against disordered eating behaviors and may, in fact, increase the risk towards them. Although this is only one study, if the results are replicated in future research this could emphasize the need to address gender role beliefs in both treatment and eating disorder prevention programs.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you know males with eating disorders that are excessively masculine or excessively feminine?