Body Image Disturbances as Predictors of Reduced Mental Health Among Australian Gay Men: Being in a Relationship Does Not Serve as a Protective Factor
Past studies have demonstrated associations between gay men’s body image disturbances and poorer mental health. However, little research has considered whether relationship status, or sexual agreements within relationships, moderates these associations. The present study was designed to address this gap. Results from a survey involving 796 Australian gay men between the ages of 18–39 showed that various measures of body image disturbance significantly and independently predicted satisfaction with life, self-esteem, positive well-being, and psychological distress. However, neither relationship status nor sexual agreement type (monogamous vs. non-monogamous) moderated these associations. These findings suggest that, although gay men may experience appearance-related pressure in order to attract sexual or relationship partners, simply being in a relationship does not reduce the detrimental associations of body image disturbance with mental health. Future research could examine specific aspects of relationship quality and dynamics that may serve as risk or protective factors in this context.
KeywordsGay men Body image Gay relationships Mental health Self-objectification Sexual orientation
This research was supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. This article is based on the first author’s Honours in Psychology research thesis (2015). The authors would like to thank the men who participated in this study, our research assistant Matthew Poole, and two anonymous reviewers who provided helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.
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