Blame stress for low self-esteem among youth, but stress affects males and females in a very different way, says a new study.

The study by Kristen Murray, doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the Australian National University (ANU), found that stress is strongly related to dysfunctional body image in adolescents.

However, while the causes of stress for young women are predominantly related to peer pressure and school attendance, what’s playing on the minds of young men are romantic relationships and uncertainty about the future.

The study, under the guidance of Don Byrne, professor, surveyed more than 500 adolescents in grades seven to 10 in schools across Canberra.

The research suggests that the stress experienced by adolescents may induce feelings of depression and trigger deteriorations in self-esteem. That depression and low self-esteem may, in turn, contribute to negative feelings regarding their own bodies.

“The stress associated with the challenges of adolescence is an important risk factor for mental health problems, but this is the first study to look at the role of stress in the development of poor body image,” said Murray.

“The research showed a strong relationship between stress and body image dissatisfaction, which was explained in part by reduced self-esteem and increased depressive symptoms for both females and males, said an ANU release.

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