What's Hot and What's Not: The Latest Tips on Mental Health for Men & Seniors

By , SparkPeople Blogger
What's HOT

In a previous blog entry, I mentioned some research that showed how keeping your mind active with reading, puzzles, games, and other such activities can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, and slow down the general cognitive decline associated with aging.

Now, there's some new evidence indicating that web-surfing may be even more beneficial than these other activities. Find out how you can help yourself by surfing the web in the right way.

What's NOT

It's been known for a long time that constant bombardment with media images of sexualized women with "perfect" bodies can be bad for the body image and self-esteem of women--especially young women. Now some new research shows these same images can have very similar effects on men. Find out why you may want to think twice before you reach for the latest issue of Maxim or Men's Health.

Surfing the net beats simple reading, according to the study linked above, because the process of actively defining your objectives and searching out the most relevant resources engages more different parts of your brain. This not only helps maintain more brain functions as you age, but also increases the sense of achievement and self-efficacy that surfers derive from their efforts.

Viewing the sexy female models in men's magazines, on the other hand, may actually increase men's sense of inadequacy. Men who check out the sexy female models in so-called lad magazines such as Maxim, Stuff, and Men's Health have more body-image problems than their peers, according to a new study by the Department of Communications at the University of Missouri, Columbia. The results closely parallel the results seen in women who feel worse about their bodies after viewing the models in magazines like Cosmopolitan or Glamour--except that the men aren't comparing themselves to the male models, they're reacting to the female models.
The researchers say that by looking at idealized, sexualized women, guys feel inadequate because they think they need to measure up on the attractiveness scale to snag such a mate.

"Men make the inference that in order to be sexual and romantic with women of the similar caliber they see in Maxim magazine, they also need to be attractive," said lead researcher Jennifer Aubrey.

This inference might be wrong--some research suggests women go for relatively less-attractive guys--but that doesn't seem to change how men react to these magazines. That may be because the uber-male perspective in these magazines sends the message that men should be having lots of sex.

"So you have that in your head while you're looking at these magazines. If you want to get as much sex as possible with these types of women, then what's left but the feeling you need to look a certain way in order to do that," said Aubrey.

The researchers had 77 male university students answer questions about body self-consciousness and anxiety about appearance at the beginning of the study and one year later. They found that reading such magazines was related to more body self-consciousness. Statistics ruled out the possibility that guys who have body-image problems specifically sought out lad magazines.

Aubrey and her colleagues also asked a group of 100 male undergraduate students to view one of these three types of images: layouts from issues of FHM, Maxim and Stuff showing a woman dressed in either lingerie or a bikini, along with a description of their appearances; layouts about male fashion showing well-dressed, fit guys; or magazine layouts that were "appearance-neutral" and featured topics such as technology and film trivia.

The men who looked at the photo spreads of women reported more body self-consciousness than the other two groups. "Even more surprising was that the male fashion group reported the least amount of body self-consciousness among the three groups," Aubrey said.

(This research is reported in the current issue of the journal Human Communication Research.)

For those of you wondering what studies about web-surfing and reading magazines like Maxim have to do with each other and why they're in the same blog...

I think there might be a basic fact of life that explains the results of both studies:

If you want to do the most you can for your own cognitive and emotional health, you need to take an active, creative role in defining your own goals on your own terms, and in searching out the resources and tools you need to achieve those goals. It's taking the initiative yourself, rather than passively responding to what's presented to you, that produces the maximum benefits for both your brain and your feelings about yourself.

This is very consistent with what psychologists know about self-efficacy (the sense that you have what it takes to achieve your goals), and its role in mental health. Whether it's deciding what kind of "look" is right for you, or what hobbies and interests you want to spend your time on, figuring it out for yourself will do you more good than following the crowd.

So, if you haven't done this already, here's a suggestion. Make SP's web-search page your home page, and set it up with links to your favorite internet resources. Make it a point to spend a little time every day using the search engine to explore new ideas and areas of interest, and find new websites of interest to you. It might make you feel better, especially if you take the time for this away from looking through the kinds of magazines mentioned above.

What do you think about all this?

Does reading those men's fashion magazines or other similar magazines make you feel worse about your body and your self?

Have you experienced any positive effects on your self-esteem and self-efficacy from searching the web for new ideas and interests?

What are some of your favorite websites for expanding your horizons?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


Besides these valid points, magazines cost a lot of money and for the most part you are paying to have all that advertising at every turn of the page, and if you don't have much time, it also builds up the clutter. Web surfing is free and works on my schedule. SP is the best. Report
I love YOUTUBE as I like to watch so many things and to listen to OLDIES music.

Also, I like doing astrology charts at www.alabe.com Report
Interesting stuff....I guess though, I have a hard time feeling sorry for a man who feels he doesn't measure up to chase the really "hot" women....perhaps if he looked a little closer the ground level (oppossed to having his head in the victoria angles clouds) he would find many women who are intelligent, funny, adventurous, loving, kind and caring, many of whom he passes by every single day. Report
I firmly believe that we must treat ourselves as an entire unit body mind and spirit, if we don't we will fall prey to all kinds of problems. So keep active in all the disciplines. Report
I don't get into men's fashion magazines. I keep my mind active by doing research on my family trees, music and the websites like Spark People. I have met a lot of wonderful people all over the world. I keep my mind very active and my sons taught me how to talk to people here on the internet. At first I was scared and it was new to me. So I dived in and now I really enjoy it. I have the habit of looking in the phone book of atlas, and my sons tell me all the time, "Look on the internet and that what you computer is for". We all laugh at that... Report
Very simple answer....fashion mags are boring....researching is interesting. I've been a professional researcher most of my life and even then it is also a favorite just for fun hobby. The only time I would look at a fashion mag is if i were researching fashion trends I guess, although that doesn't even sound interesting from a research standpoint. Report
I avoid men's fashion magazines. They are shallow, glossy ad campaigns, I find them irrelevant to real life. Nor do I compare myself to male fashion models. It's enough to compare myself now to myself 30 years ago!

Have you experienced any positive effects on your self-esteem and self-efficacy from searching the web for new ideas and interests?
No, but that is not "the web's" fault.

What are some of your favorite websites for expanding your horizons? SparkPeople, DailyStrength, DIYPlanner are ones I frequent.

NTP Report
It really doesn't matter whether a person surfs the net or reads a book. Anything that keeps the mind active is a good thing. A healthy spiritual/mental/physical trio is really the best goal to achieve. I enjoy surfing the net and reading magazines. At least with the magazines I don't have to worry about connection problems. Report
I don't read any fashion magazines...or many magazines at all. I usually get used ones on decorating and such. I don't believe in supporting companies that promote the skinny life female or male. Real life is that some people are overweight not due to eating junk food or overeating at all, but due to health issues and medications. Is that ever taken into consideration?
No, I keep my mind busy playing really brainy games and by reading self help books, and writing articles for other people. Report
I keep my mind active with researching and expanding my family history. I also helps others in their genealogy research. An active mind is a good thing!

And some of my favorite SP sites are the "Healthy Reflections".... Report
Hey, Bob

I think that might be because there are only three men who actually read this blog, and we're two of them. Either that, or the rest are all the "strong, silent type" who lurk but never comment, lol.

I don't have any trouble remembering how self-conscious and inadeqate I felt about the whole "dating" thing, either. But that may be because it still happens now, lol. The thing that really struck me in that research was the finding that it's when the content of those magazines convey the idea that having sex is "the name of the game" that the images produce such strong effects on body image and self-image. When the content is more focused on something else, the images don't have the same effects. So, I guess that raises the question of whether guys really do think about sex all the time, or whether that's just what the advertising industry wants everyone to think... Report
I find it fascinating that everyone before me has commented on the issue of keeping your brain able to get in gear. I read, lead a big Spark team that requires a lot of research, look for things that interest me, etc.

However, speaking for me as a grandfatherly guy with few memory problems, I can remember back to high school. I'm what I consider an average guy with a higher than average I.Q., but I remember having self doubt about looking good enough to ask any of the really "hot" girls to go out.

At the high school level, and somewhat even at the college level, looks were the whole deal. Because I refused to put myself in that position, I never suffered the "put-downs" a number of my friends did.

It's just really curious that no one till now has commented on that issue. Report
I believe that it is very important to keep both the mind and body active. One helps the other. Serfing is a lot more interactive that just reading so I can see where it could offer more benefits.
Shadowpup: Read the entire article they explain the results, "With more time and experience, the group that was new to the Web could eventually show the same brain activation patterns as their more Internet-savvy peers."

I try to keep my mind as active as possible, but at age 70 there are still times that I will get up to do something, and forget what it was I was going to do? Some times, just back tracking will jog the memory, and some times I have to just give up. Luckily, these "senior-moments" aren't that often, but they are frustrating when they happen. I have a 100 year old Mom, that still drives her own car and lives alone (next door), and she laughingly says, "Son you haven't seen nothing yet!!" But she is pretty spry and active for her age. She even drives about 100 miles every few months to go see her 101 year old sister, who still lives alone and takes care of herself. Now to you "youngsters".... keep learning, that is the secret to having a healthy mind. I try to learn one thing new each day! (Thanks to the Internet) Report
I am a senior citizen who really loves the computer too and all the information that is so easily available. Any question that can come to mind I can google for an answer here. which I just did before coming to this site. I am still trying to get DH involved. But he does just ask me to "look it up" Report
I have friends that just don't see the advatage of a computer. They are the ones that are NOT well informed. I love mine and the older I get the better my mind is because of the computer.
A senior and loving it! Report
I hunted up the original article, and it appears that the full publication may not be out yet. Still, reading the overview, it is not at all clear that the researchers were measuring what the reporters said they were measuring! One group of individuals in the study had experience surfing, the other didn't. It could just as easily be that the sort of brain/personality that is drawn to participating in "new" activities such as learning to surf, and the sort of brain/personality that has not done so yet, are different. That doesn't mean surfing is necessarily good. It doesn't mean it isn't - just that the article did not have enough information to draw the reported conclusions. Other researchers have noted that focused attention appears to support learning and the way that the brain is engaged, and that surfing/virtual reality games/etc may help participants learn how to do this - so perhaps the investigators in the study did look at that as well, and it doesn't seem unreasonable. But the summary article I read online didn't have evidence to support that conclusion. Report
It's important to make a distinction between web surfing, looking for information from reputable sources and authorities and just using the Internet. Message boards and social interaction sites serve a purpose, but they are not the same thing as surfing the net. Report
I've lost count as to how many brain cells I've killed off surfing the web...

it's my personal belief that the internet has made a portion of the population lazy... these people don't want to find things on their own, they want a quick fix, an immediate answer to a problem rather than looking at all sides then coming to a decision.

All it takes is a quick look at the forums here, or really any forum based website, where there's documented information in the form of stickied threads or in articles that are written. You will have new people come in all the time and ask the same question that's been asked over and over again... Search function works just fine... but people choose to not use it..

In enjoy research... I love reading... the internet is a supplement to my reading and can't take the place of books... but I do use it to follow up on things I've read that I want to go deeper into...
Keeping your mind active is just as important as keeping your body active! Report
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.