Pressure for men to get 'Love Island' look fuels depression and suicide, experts warn

"BODY dissatisfaction” – or shame about one’s appearance – is on the rise in men.

This isn’t something just affecting young men either, it’s extensively reported across a range of age groups.

And it’s harmful – research shows it can lead to depression, steroid abuse and even suicide.

More commonly, it coincides with punishing gym routines, overly strict dieting, and anxious thoughts – all of which can add up to have a severe impact on daily functioning.

This pressure for men to look “perfect” is one of the reasons why there’s been a rise in the number of men using makeup.

Too scared to have sex or go swimming

I interviewed a number of men who told me that, for them, body dissatisfaction meant spending money on clothes they would never wear – as they felt too conscious of their bodies and that certain clothing exacerbated “problem areas”.

They also spoke about not wanting to have sex with their partners as they felt ashamed about how they looked naked.

For some men, their body dissatisfaction had also led to them avoiding activities they used to enjoy.

One guy explained: “I used to be on a swimming team and now I don’t dare go into the pool.”

Men need to have access to effective support but it’s seriously hard to find.

Lack of support for men

There aren’t many existing support networks to reduce male body dissatisfaction.

Those that do exist tend to either blame the individual or blame other people – assuming that if guys stop watching TV, going on social media or reading magazines then he'll recover.

These programmes make an assumption that if a man can change his behaviour or his thinking.

But as Harvard professor, Bryn Austin, writes, this “limited” and even “unethical” assumption places “the burden solely on individuals while leaving toxic environments and societal bad actors unchallenged”.

Laying the blame on the wrong person

There is also a tendency to blame women for male body dissatisfaction.

Mums are often blamed for kids' addiction to unhealthy foods.

Mothers are chastised for callously modelling unhealthy food behaviours onto their children.

Feminists are depicted as promoting female body positivity on the one hand and cruelly body shaming men on the other.

And women generally are blamed for holding men to appearance standards they themselves could not meet.

But not only is this unfair to women – who have to deal with their own severe body dissatisfaction and bear stricter, more frequent appearance pressures than men – but it’s also unfair to men, as it ignores the real cause.

No "real" images of men

It's unsurprising men are feeling this way, given that research has shown how most images in popular magazines, dating and porn websites are of muscular lean, young men – who pretty much always have a full head of hair.

So anyone that doesn’t fit this notion of “attractiveness” is going to feel like they’re not good enough.

Men are now feeling dissatisfied not only with their muscles, but also their hairline, wrinkles and body fat – and a heavy cultural and commercial promotion of unrealistic appearance standards is to blame.

Body shaming begins at childhood

One of the most compelling examples of this is the way toy manufacturers have added muscle and reduced the body fat of successive editions of action dolls over the years.

Similar changes have also been seen with centrefolds models.

There has also been a rise in brands marketing protein shakes, cosmetic surgery, waxing products, makeup and cellulite creams directly at men.

And as the participants I spoke with noted, you see protein shakes at supermarkets and local shops, which makes these products hard to avoid.


EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.

Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

  • CALM,, 0800 585 858
  • Heads Together,
  • Mind,, 0300 123 3393
  • Papyrus,, 0800 068 41 41
  • Samaritans,, 116 123

Psychotherapist Susie Orbach says that we feel bad about the way we look because “businesses mine our bodies for profits”.

In other words, companies actively try to make us hate the way we look to sell products.

It's up to us to tackle that marketing ploy if any of us are going to feel better about the way we look.

The key signs your loved one is at risk of suicide

There are several warning signs that a person is at risk of suicide. But it's vital to know that they won't always be obvious.

While some people are quite visibly in pain and become withdrawn and depressed, others may continue their life as normal pretending everything is fine.

Look out for subtle personality changes in friends and family, especially if you know they have been going through a tough time, Lorna told The Sun Online.

These are the key signs to watch out for:

  1. A change in routine, such as sleeping or eating less than normal
  2. Struggling to sleep, lacking energy or appearing particularly tired
  3. Drinking, smoking or using drugs more than usual
  4. Finding it hard to cope with everyday things
  5. Not wanting to do things they usually enjoy
  6. Becoming withdrawn from friends and family – not wanting to talk or be with people
  7. Appearing more tearful
  8. Appearing restless, agitated, nervous, irritable
  9. Putting themselves down in a serious or jokey way, for example 'Oh, no one loves me', or 'I'm a waste of space'
  10. Losing interest in their appearance, not liking or taking care of themselves or feeling they don't matter

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