It’s time to get serious about men’s health

This week, we’ll hear a lot about men’s health – entirely expected during Men’s Health Week. What’s important is that the messages broadcast this week are repeated for the other 51 weeks of the year. 

You only have to take a glance at the Men’s Health Week website to understand why it is so important. Men, you see, are really behind the eight ball when it comes to their health.

Let’s strip it down.

A boy born in 2010 can expect to live for 78 years. A girl born in the same year has a life expectancy of 82.3 years.

Four times as many men as women will take their own lives. That’s five men a day on average. 

When it comes to health problems that can cause loss of life, men outstrip women in terms of intentional self-harm, skin cancer, cirrhosis and other liver diseases, lung cancer and blood and lymph cancer.

There are a myriad reasons, men’s health falls short of women’s health. Genetics – that is, having a Y chromosome – is thought to account for just 30 per cent of a man’s overall health. The rest is down to poor lifestyle choices.

Inactive men are 60 per cent more likely to suffer from depression than active men. Men who consume more than 10 alcoholic drinks a week or 40 per cent more at risk of diabetes than those who drink less than that. 

On the positive side, men who walk five city blocks or climb 50 stairs a day have a 25 per cent less likelihood of having a heart attack.

And men who talk about their problems, be they physical or psychological, are more likely to get help.

The focus on men’s health is not just about preventing untimely death; it’s just as much about encouraging men to have healthy lives. 

If the average man lives to 78 years, an estimated 11 years of that life will be spent in ill-health.

That’s a lot of time in the grey, joyless netherworld of pathology tests and doctor’s waiting rooms – time that could be spent doing enjoyable things, in other words living life to it fullest potential.

Chances are many men glancing at the headline over this editorial have skipped it on their way to the sports pages. So it’s up to the people who have paused to read it to get the message to the men in their lives. If they don’t want 11 years of illness, men need to start looking after themselves now.