The Mental Health Impact of Physical Appearance Concerns in the Context of Other Life Domains Among Australian Gay Men Academic Article uri icon


  • Previous studies have identified gay men as a high-risk population for body image disturbances. However, little research has examined the mental health impact of gay men's physical appearance concerns in the context of other major life domains. The present study addressed this gap by investigating how mental health outcomes (satisfaction with life, self-esteem, positive well-being, and psychological distress) were associated with satisfaction with and importance of physical appearance, work, family relationships, friendships, health and fitness, and sex life among Australian gay men aged 18-39. The possible moderating role of intimate relationship status was also examined. Results from an online survey revealed that greater satisfaction with physical appearance, work, family, and friendships all had similar positive associations with mental health. However, more importance placed on physical appearance was more consistently associated with poorer mental health compared with the subjective importance of other domains. Findings also indicated the associations between physical appearance satisfaction and life satisfaction, and between physical appearance importance and positive well-being, were weaker for those in relationships. Thus, physical appearance matters in gay men's lives, but was only one factor when considered in the broader context of other life areas that contributed to overall well-being. These findings suggest the need for a nuanced and contextualized understanding of how physical appearance concerns fit into gay men's lives.


publication date

  • 2017