Men's Health Week 2016
Author: Corinne Bett Date Posted:13 June 2016
Men face a different array of health issues when compared with women. Men’s Health week is an opportunity to acknowledge the challenges that men may face to maintain their optimal health and how we can overcome these.
There is a vast inequality when comparing the health of men and women in Australia. Men have a shorter lifespan than women, with the average expectancy for a man being 79.7 years compared with 84.2 years for women.
Men are also increasingly vulnerable to many health conditions shown by The Australian Bureau of Statistics Leading Causes of Death by Gender (2012):
- Heart disease: 119 males for every 100 females affected
- Trachea and lung cancer: 150 males for every 100 females affected
- Chronic lower respiratory disease: 114 males for every 100 females affected
- Colon and rectum cancer: 124 males for every 100 females affected
- Blood and lymph cancer including leukaemia: 139 males for every 100 females affected
- Diabetes: 108 males for every 100 females affected
- Suicide: 300 males for every 100 females affected
Why do Men experience such a difference in health outcomes?
- Males in industrialised societies such as Australia are less inclined to than woman to take in active role in maintaining their health. This may be due to cultural conditioning and the perception that health is not important or a priority.
- Men receive less health based messages and health education from community based services than women do concerning their health and wellbeing.
- Men are less likely to seek professional help for health problems, particularly those of an emotional nature. This might be related to the Western definition of masculinity which implies strength and silence. Men may feel that seeking professional expertise for their issues is a sign of weakness.
- Women have more contact with health services related to pregnancy and menopause than men, however men have their own set of sexual health issues that need to be addressed by their health care network.
So what can we do to bridge this gap?
Aside from the role that various health services on a national and community level need to play to develop a new approach to health promotion and interventions for men, there is a lot men and their support networks can do to ensure they maintain their wellness and optimal level of health.
Set up a health maintenance plan with the doctor
Prevention is better than cure and screening tests performed on a regular basis are an important part of preventative health. Some of the regular tests a man over the age of 40 should be participating in include:
- Annual prostate examination by a doctor.
- Monthly testicular examination at home.
- Bowel Cancer screening (Faecal Occult Blood test – once every two years).
- Bone Density Scan (discuss risk factors and frequency with doctor).
- Annual skin check.
- Biannual dental check up.
- Blood pressure (each visit to the doctor, or annually at the least).
- Annual cholesterol & glucose levels check.
- Annual weight assessment.
- Annual eye test.
- Hearing assessment (if you have symptoms).
Sexual health services
Men have their own set of sexual health issues that need to be acknowledged and addressed by their health care network. Regular STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) and prostate checks should be performed by their doctor.
Erectile Dysfunction is also a common sexual health issue and men may discuss their treatment options for assistance with this issue with their doctor or other complementary health practitioners in their health care network.
Unemployment & Retirement
Many men measure their self-worth by and find their identity is tied in with their employment status. Evidence suggests that unemployment plays a major role in the higher male suicide rate. It is important for men who are unemployed or retired to ensure they cultivate a healthy interest or hobby in something outside of their work duties.
Playing sport, volunteer work in the community or getting involved in local organisations such as a ‘Men’s Shed’ (menshed.org) are all important ways men can foster their self-worth and identity.
- One in eight Australian men suffer from depression at any given time (ABS 2001 – 2011/12) and this has been shown to be associated with an increased risk of health disorders such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Life issues such as death of a partner, relationship separation and unemployment can trigger serious situational depression in men more than women.
- To support their mental health, men are entitled to up to 10 visits a year with a psychologist under Medicare, when referred by their doctor. They may also find maintaining a hobby, or working at their local Men’s Shed, can give them an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals, to build their support network.
- Mens Line Australia provides telephone and online support, information and a referral service to support men throughout the various challenges they may face. Ph. 1300 78 99 78 or mensline.org.au
Other services that may be helpful include:
Lifeline 13 11 14 https://www.lifeline.org.au/
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
Black Dog Institute www.blackdoginstitute.org.