Time to Talk About Masculinity and Health: Top 10 Male Health Problems
Society’s notion of masculinity generally includes being ‘though’. ‘Acting like a man’ is often associated with strength and perseverance to the point of braving through severe physical or emotional pain, never reaching out, crying or asking for help.
It is these gender norms, however, that endanger men’s health and shorten men’s life expectancy. According to statistics, men die at higher rates from the top 10 life threatening conditions: heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, accidents, pneumonia, diabetes, suicide, kidney disease, chronic liver disease. This is not due to some fundamental physiological difference between men and women, rather the result of harmful internalised notions of masculinity.
11th – 17th of June is International Men’s Health Week and we at FindMeCure wanted to take this opportunity to talk about men’s health issues from the perspective of understanding and compassion.
We believe that information equals empowerment, so we’re going to acquaint you with the top ten male health problems in hopes it gives you the necessary push to monitor your health more closely.
Cardiovascular disease. An estimated one fourth of men have some sort of heart disease, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). And though heart disease is a leading cause of death for both genders, twice as many men die from it.
In men, heart disease also manifests itself about 10 years earlier in life than for women. A great of number of the risk factors, however, are completely preventable. Smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and high cholesterol are almost entirely up to choice, so you do have some control over your heart condition even if there is a history of cardiovascular disease in your family.
And don’t forget that depression and mental distress also affect your heart health, so take care of your emotional and mental state too. Speaking of which…
Suicide. Men are more likely than women to commit suicide and male suicide attempts are more often successful than those of women.
A number of factors are at play here. The most prominent is societal stigma associated with a) mental health issues and b) men openly admitting to being in pain and reaching out for help. However, experiencing emotional pain and consulting someone equipped to help you overcome your issues does not make you any less of a man and could potentially save your life.
Respiratory disease is yet another highly preventable cause of death among men. We do have to recognise some lifestyle constraints that affect men’s respiratory health – environmental factors such as asbestos exposure at the workplace are one example. Smoking, however, remains a leading risk factor.
Alcohol-related life-threatening conditions take the lives of more men than women. Overindulging in alcohol consumption (which men are twice as likely to do than women are) significantly increases the risk of cancer of the whole tract it passes through and also the liver. And talking about suicide, men are more likely to have been drinking prior to committing suicide, according to the CDC.
Accidents are another leading cause of death and injury among men. Vehicle accidents took the lives of twice as many men than women aged 15-19 in 2006. This may be linked to what we previously said about alcohol consumption, as well as notions of masculinity that portray ‘real men’ as engaging in high-risk behaviour.
We think it’s time we establish taking your safety and that of others into consideration as manly. Real men put safety first.
HIV and AIDS still mostly affect homosexual men. And there’s still a lot of stigma around it, based both on gender stereotypes and lack of knowledge about the disease and how to prevent it. It’s yet another example of how our learnt perceptions play a huge role in the way we approach (our) health.
Skin cancer, surprisingly, is a bigger risk for men than women. Men account for two thirds of melanoma deaths in 2013 according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. And of those men affected, an overwhelming majority are white men over 50.
Skin cancer risk can easily be lowered, though what makes men more susceptible to the disease remains open for interpretation.
Liver disease is also among the top 10 male health risks. American Cancer Society says alcohol and tobacco use are the primary risk factors and it links to previously mentioned issues such as alcohol abuse and lack of healthy coping mechanisms in cases of mental health issues.
Apart from regular screening, talking to a therapist can reduce the risk of quite a lot of life-threatening conditions that are not directly linked to men’s mental health per se but can be affected by unhealthy lifestyle choices prompted by emotional distress.
Diabetes is one such condition that can be prevented or positively affected to a certain degree by a healthy lifestyle. Men with diabetes face the dangers of lower testosterone levels and impotence, which in turn can lead to anxiety and depression.
The American Diabetes Association seems to share our sentiment that modern masculinity includes the bravery of speaking openly about health issues and reach out for help aiming for prevention.
Influenza and pneumonia also rank among the top 10 dangers for men healthwise. Though you’ve probably heard the joke that only a woman who has given birth can know how a man who has the flu feels, men with compromised immune system due to one of the other conditions listed here have a higher risk of developing flu-related complications.
The flu should not be taken lightly – no one is above regular immunizations and proper rest. And according to the American Lung Association, men are 25% more likely to die from the flu or pneumonia, though we can only speculate why.
Now, equipped with this knowledge, we hope you make better decisions for your overall health. And talking about prevention, clinical trials are not just about developing new drugs to treat a disease. A lot of them investigate ways to prevent certain conditions or develop better diagnostic methods. So, if you’re really dedicated to staying healthy well into old age, you can give these clinical trials a try.