A UK study has found that men, and particularly gay men, would be prepared to trade years of their lives for a “better” body.

The national study for the Central YMCA, the Succeed Foundation and the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England, Bristol, examined British men’s attitudes to their appearance.

It reveals that most men are unhappy with their muscularity and that they are usually most unhappy about the state of their stomach or “beer belly”.

The study also found that more than 35% of men would sacrifice a year of life to achieve the perfect body weight or shape. This was higher among gay men, with 48% saying that they would sacrifice a year or more of their lives in exchange for the ideal body.

The majority of men surveyed were unhappy with their level of muscularity – most didn’t think their arms (62.8%) or chests (62.9%) were muscular enough.

Over half of the men questioned (58.6%) said that “body talk” – described as a conversation in which men reinforce and buy into the unrealistic male body image ‘beauty ideal’ – affects them personally, mostly in a negative way.

This mirrors research in women which shows that listening to just five minutes of body talk can lower overall body confidence. Gay men were found to be more likely to engage in body talk than straight men.

The study reports that 32.4% of straight men and 59.2% of gay men compare their appearance to people who are better looking than they are.

These concerns have resulted in one in five (18.2%) men questioned being on a high protein diet and nearly one in three (32%) using protein supplements.

Around 4% of men admitted that they had made themselves sick as a mean of controlling their weight at least once and 3.4% of men reported using laxatives as a means of controlling shape and weight at least once.

“Today gay men are under enormous pressure about their bodies, and we believe that a lack of body diversity in the media, including the gay press, and a relentless focus which values people based on appearance, may in part explain why gay men are particularly susceptible to this issue,” Rosi Prescott, CEO of Central YMCA, told

“This is of concern when we know that record numbers of men are taking steroids or having unnecessary cosmetic surgery to achieve what is often an unattainable or unrealistic body image ideal.”

About a quarter of the 384 men interviewed for the survey were gay.

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