THE head of the Boys’ Brigade in Scotland has warned of the growing number of young men seeking the perfect body despite the risks to their health.

Bill Stevenson, director of the BB in Scotland, said children as young as eight were feeling under pressure to achieve a more muscular shape.

He called for more “realistic examples” of body image to be represented by advertisers and the media, which could help create “a more positive example to young people, some of whom currently feel the pressure to achieve unrealistic results”.

Loading article content

Read more: Revealed - Dark chocolate could prevent heart disease

“Over the years, stresses have changed and we’re seeing an increase in pressure from advertisers for people to achieve a ‘perfect body’ image, especially in males,” said Mr Stevenson, in a letter in this month’s Life and Work, the house magazine of the Church of Scotland.

“Between 24/7 access to online news, social media and instant access to images from across the world, more and more young people are feeling the need to attain a certain type of body image.

“At the BB, we’ve seen an increase in the number of young men going to the gym, which from a health benefit perspective is great, but there’s also the danger that people try and change their physique by putting their bodies through excessive strain.

“Sadly, statistics show that cosmetic surgery, muscle- enhancing drugs, and skipping meals, is on the increase in eight-to-18-years-olds in a bid to achieve their idea of perfection. We are urging advertisers to take a step back and ensure a more equal representation of body image.”

Read more: Revealed - Dark chocolate could prevent heart disease

Mr Stevenson said it was male images in the media were now being altered to “make them appear more muscular” with boys ever more keen to replicate the muscular physiques of celebrities like DJ Calvin Harris, reality star Mark Wright and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.

“If more realistic examples of body image were represented in the media, it could help create a more positive example to young people, some of whom currently feel the pressure to achieve unrealistic results,” he said.

Mr Stevenson referred to a recent survey by the Advertising Association’s think tank Credos that showed some boys were going to extreme lengths to achieve the “perfect body”.

It surveyed 1,005 boys from primary and secondary schools around the country to explore their attitudes towards advertising and body image, and conducted focus groups of boys aged 8 to 18 and with teachers, youth leaders and parents to understand the roots, effects and solutions to boys body confidence.

The report found 42 per cent of boys who think male images are realistic also believe there is a “perfect body” to strive for, compared with 16 per cent of those who think male images are unrealistic.

Read more: Revealed - Dark chocolate could prevent heart disease

“Two-thirds of those who believe there is a ‘perfect body’ also think they can achieve it if they work at it,” says the report. The report recommends that advertisers should use a diversity of male body shapes and sizes to encourage more realistic aspirations among boys. The association’s membership includes Microsoft and Twitter.