This week (June 15th to 21st), the world is celebrating Men’s Health Week, a time to spread awareness about the health issues that disproportionately affect men and boys and open the dialogue about prevention and early detection.
Why do we need to talk about men’s health?
This week is certainly not just about health inequalities, but it is well known and important to consider that gender is a key determinant of health and that being a man or a woman “affects” health in different ways. In most countries however, including Australia and New Zealand, the health status of men tends to be poorer than that of female. As an example, in Australia and New Zealand in 2015, the life expectancy of men was 4.2 years shorter than that of women*.
Are men at greater health risks?
When thinking of health status there are few factors to consider:
First, there are individual factors at play, or how men take care of their own health. It is often said that when it comes to taking care of their health, men are their own worst enemies. Indeed, a much greater percentage of men’s diseases are linked to individual lifestyle and behaviours such as alcohol consumption, smoking and lack of exercise.
Men adopt fewer health-promoting behaviours than women and are also more reluctant and less likely to seek professional help, visit general practitioners or talk about their physical and mental health with others. This, together with a lack of early prevention translate into men being over 20% more likely to die of a heart attack than women and almost 30% more likely to get diabetes. Men are also 3 times more likely to die by suicide or in a car accident.
If you add to these individual factors social and socio-economic factors, you get a better understanding of the important of an initiative like men’s health week.
In many western societies, masculinity is often associated with attributes like strength, stoicism, independence and self-reliance, and talking about emotions is often seen as a sign of weakness.
Young males tend to also display riskier and more reckless behaviours due to their sense of “invulnerability”.
Finally, it has been historically harder to reach and engage male audiences on health issues, especially as they have less regular contacts with health services – but times are changing.
Men’s health week is the perfect opportunity to challenge all these various cultural & psycho-social notions attached to men and encourage men to take the physical and mental steps they need to be as healthy as possible.
Education on preventable health conditions
With a strategic health and wellbeing plan, responsible employers can play a crucial role in strengthening health literacy and better self-care amongst men employees.
Initiatives such as health checks, health monitoring, seminars and workshops (eg. Men Health Seminars, Smoking Cessation Seminars), mental health programs and health challenges can go a long way in creating and sustaining positive health habits.
What are some of the preventative health tips to reduce lifestyle risk factors?
It is not hard to change some of these statistics. Even small steps can really make a big difference. A person’s lifestyle influences how healthy they are so things like physical activity, a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and having a safe occupation reduces the risk of poor health.
Regular Physical Activity
Almost half of men in Australia and New Zealand aren’t sufficiently physically active. Low levels of physical activity are a major risk factor for chronic conditions. Being physically active reduces the risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. It has also been proven to help improve mental health.
A Well-Balanced Diet
In Australia less than 3%** of men eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetable every day. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits and limiting the intake of foods (and drinks) that are high in fats and sugars will help maintain a healthy weight.
Preventive Psychological Skills
Anxiety and depression are silent killer amongst men and often get overlooked as many men find it difficult to recognise and talk about their feelings. Preventive psychological skills can be learned and are crucial to prevent and reduce risk for mental ill-health and promote emotional wellness and resilience.
Limit Alcohol & don’t use Tobacco
1 in 2 Australian men** are exceeding the single occasion risky drinking guidelines (over 4 standard drinks in one occasion) and around 15% of men smoke daily. Limiting daily intake of alcohol will help avoid a variety of potential health problems, as well as the risk of addiction.
Be safe at work
It is a fact that over 85% of people killed at work** in Australia and New Zealand are men and similar trends exists for work place injuries. Establishing a “safety first culture” with clear injury prevention programs will help engage your male employees on safety matters an protect them.
Seek Health Care when needed
It is important to drive a preventive message so that men and boys can take action early and seek treatment as soon as concerning signs or symptoms are noticed. We should all encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury, and to talk about what’s happening to them.
This week represents a great opportunity to start the dialogue and create change. We all know that men don’t like to talk about their health – but it doesn’t have to be this way and employers could play a pivotal role in executing health initiatives to help their male employees create and maintain better health habits. Men could benefit from a better awareness of the preventable health issues that affect them and ways to avoid them. They should also feel comfortable to talk more about them and seek help where necessary.
Get in contact if we can help you and your employees with any health and wellbeing initiatives to drive health literacy and self-care.
Australia : http://menshealthweek.org.au/
New Zealand : https://www.menshealthweek.co.nz/
International : https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/mhw
** ABS 2018. National Health Survey
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