How Media Contributes to Boys’ Body Image Pressure

Credos, an advertising industry think tank, surveyed 1,005 boys from primary and secondary schools around the UK to explore their attitudes towards advertising and body image; focus groups with boys aged 8 to 18 and with teachers, youth leaders and parents added to understanding the roots, effects and solutions to boys’ body confidence.

This report focuses on the way male models are portrayed in advertising and the media — particularly, whether boys are aware of digitally enhanced imagery and whether this impacts their behavior.

The subsequent Credos report, Picture of Health?, revealed that 53% of boys felt advertising was a major source of pressure to look good; only social media (57%) and friends (68%) exerted more influence, while celebrities (49%) were slightly less persuasive.


“This new research shows boys are increasingly worried about their appearance,” said Karen Fraser, Credos director.
“We have to recognize that advertising and the wider media play some part in shaping how young people feel about themselves — both positively and negatively.”

Key Insights

  • And while most (80%) were aware of image-manipulation in the media, most appeared to associate this with the female form, as the study reported that they were surprised at the extent to which male images are altered
  • Two thirds (67%) said it was not acceptable for brands to use digital techniques to change the body image of a model in their advertising
  • But some secondary school-age boys (aged 11 to 18) suggested the way media portray men in their images could be healthy (33%) or even aspirational (22%)
  • More generally, the study found that boys hold advertising in high regard, with 73% of secondary school boys agreeing that ads are important in letting them know about products
  • Around one in four (42%) boys who thought the male images they saw were realistic also believed there is a “perfect body” to strive for, compared with just 16% of those who think male images are unrealistic
  • 69% of 16–18 year olds said they had tried new products after seeing an advertisement

Additional Resources


Originally published at www.debaird.net on August 9, 2016.