Melbourne, June 25 : A new survey of almost 1000 university students has shown that young Australians are seven times worse off than their Asian counterparts, when it comes to suffering from obsessive body image problems.
The survey¸ conducted by Melbourne psychiatrists, also showed that gym junkies are the worst affected.
The psychiatrists said that the findings show the damaging impact of the West's preoccupation with physical attractiveness and youth.
"Our obsession with looking right is far more dominant than the value we place on intellect and that is severely affecting the way many of us feel about ourselves, as we have shown," News.com.au quoted David Castle, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Melbourne, as saying.
Castle surveyed first-year university students in Victoria and in China for rates of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), a severe psychiatric condition in which a person obsesses over an often unnoticeable body 'defect', sometimes for hours a day.
One and two per cent of Australians are believed to have the condition, which can be treated with anti-depressants and therapy.
However, the study showed that 3.5 per cent of the 435 Australian students surveyed met the criteria for clinical diagnosis, compared to less than half a percent of the 488 Chinese students.
Chinese-born Australians surveyed had the same high rate as Caucasians.
Castle said cultural values could be responsible for the stark difference.
"In China, as in many other Asian cultures, it seems less value is put on physical attributes like sporting prowess and more on other attributes like intellectual ability and the person as a whole," he said.
"They also revere their older people, whereas our culture is youth-focused and very tied up with judging by appearance first and foremost. I think that's where we are going wrong," he added.
Another study of 93 male gym users found rates of BDD were as high as 5.4 per cent, with half having a type of the condition called muscle dysmorphia.
"This is a kind of reverse anorexia where people see themselves as slight and puny when they're actually quite muscular. As a result they obsess by spending hours at the gym and drink endless protein drinks to try to fix it." Castle said.