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How much do men and women worry about their looks?

3rd April 2014

Women feel twice as much pressure to look good than men do, it emerged yesterday. A detailed look into the body confidence of 2,000 men and women documented a dramatic rise in appearance-related anxiety according to benenden health's latest survey.

Results showed two-thirds of the women felt under too much pressure to look good, citing a rise in ‘perfect-looking’ women in the media setting unrealistic standards.

The research found six in ten women go as far as to say they get anxious about their image. Women are also twice as likely to feel scrutinised for their appearance at work as men and experienced more bouts of feeling self-conscious about their body on holiday, at parties and even just at home.

But the pressure is growing on men, who now spend over three hours a week on average stressing over their image and feel the level of expectation placed upon them is rising.

In fact, results also showed a rise in men dressing for their body shape, discussing their image with partners and one in eight men are even dieting in secret.

Yesterday, Helen Smith, Head of Research at benenden health, said: ‘’Our research shows that body hang-ups can have an effect on people of all shapes, sizes and genders – whether it relates to weight, body shape or clothing, both men and women can feel at times under pressure to live up to ‘expectation’.

‘’Whilst many of us may feel that there are areas of our body we could change, what is worrying is the levels of people who are experiencing real anxiety or stress as a result of these negative views about their appearance.

“By comparing yourself to unrealistic ideals about what is ‘perfect’ you can put yourself under pressure to meet idealistic expectations and consequently suffer stress and anxiety which can have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing. Individuals shouldn’t be afraid to talk to a counsellor or therapist if their negative beliefs about their body shape are having a severe impact on their wellbeing.”

The study also found men fear they would be judged by other male friends for showing too much concern about their health and image.

Worries that it wasn’t ‘blokey’ to show a concern about the way they look or feel or that people would scrutinize them were also likely to lead men to stress over their food intake and diet in secret.

When asked to rate their worries on different areas of their self-image men were found to show most anxiety around fears they were overweight or had a beer belly (58%), while yellowing teeth (20%) and concerns over a lack of muscle (14%) were also prevalent.

A worry over balding or receding hairlines (19.2%) and concern over ‘moobs’ (19.4%) rounded off the top five body worries for men.

Women were also mostly concerned about their weight and teeth, while cellulite was the third highest issue to cause body anxiety. Bags under the eyes and a fear of having flabby arms or ‘bingo wings’ completed the top five most common body hang-ups for women.

Rising levels of worry led 75 percent of men to think they are pressured to meet high standards of appearance far more than previous generations ever were.

Helen Smith added: ‘’It’s clear from these figures that both sexes are affected by similar concerns about the way they look – the survey showed for example that worries about weight were the top concern for both genders.

“As the research shows, feeling under pressure about your appearance is not in any way a purely ‘female’ domain - men are becoming increasingly concerned about their own body image and this is causing them more worry than ever before.”