Young men who chase picture-perfect physique could be harming themselves, by exercising to excess, warns Dr. David Giles of Winchester in the UK.
"Lads" Magazines, increasingly successful in the west in recent years, might drive men to try to become more and more muscular, even if that could harm their health.
AdvertisementTogether with colleague Jessica Close, he surveyed 161 men aged between 18 and 36, and found that those who regularly read the magazines were likely to be heavily influenced by the imagery within.
As a result, they are more likely than others to consider using anabolic steroids to improve their appearance, the researchers found.
Lad, lads, or laddie mags (magazines) (known exclusively as men's magazines in the U.S.) contain non-nude photography, accompanied by articles about the women (usually models or actresses); consumer stories about cars, tools, and toys and so on.
Dr Giles said: "The message in typical lads' magazines is that you need to develop a muscular physique in order to attract a quality mate.
"Readers internalise this message, which creates anxieties about their actual bodies and leads to increasingly desperate attempts to modify them."
Some specialists have dubbed this condition "athletica nervosa", though a more frequently used term is body dysmorphic disorder.
Dr Giles said: "Men and women increasingly get their ideas of what they should look like from the imagery they see in the media.
"The volume of content is growing and it is trapping young people in particular, into unhealthy obsessions about their own bodies."
The research found that men who were single were far less likely to have body image problems than those in a relationship, BBC reports.
Professor Naomi Fineberg, a consultant psychiatrist who runs a treatment service for people with obsessive compulsive disorder, said that men and women suffered equally from body dysmorphic disorder.
"Among men, there are those who focus on their muscularity - they may not be seeking aesthetic perfection, but instead some kind of regularity, or symmetry, and they become preoccupied with achieving it.
"We can't say for sure whether these magazines might be causing it, but it's very persuasive that cultural factors are important."