Did you know that the life expectancy for men is 4 years less than for women?
It is no surprise when you consider some of these facts:
• Men are 32% less likely to visit a health professional
• Men are less likely to seek therapy if they are feeling down, or anxious
• Men experience higher rates of suicide and motor vehicle accidents
• Men are more likely to drink excessively and smoke
• Men are more prone to serious health conditions, such as heart attacks and diabetes
To turn this around, we need to understand why men don’t look after their health enough.
1. In many cultures, concepts about masculinity often make men feel pressured by societal expectations to appear strong, self-reliant and emotionally guarded.
2. Men take, and tolerate, more risks than women, so they present to the doctor later in the course of an illness.
3. Many men in their 30s stop exercising regularly, or participating in club sports, and instead become spectators. And in Australia, alcohol is frequently embedded in sports culture.
4. Men and women engage differently. Research has shown that women will volunteer information to a doctor, whereas men have to be asked.
5. Men often require prompting from a partner or friend to seek medical support.
At First Step, we dedicate a lot of time to forming relationships with each man. It’s a little bit like fishing – we put out a line and slowly reel them in, over time engaging at a deeper level!
We work hard to create a place where men feel comfortable and feel good that they came. We support them to set short, medium and long term goals that they want for themselves, that they can achieve incrementally. We address diet, exercise, self-esteem and healthy lifestyle choices. We support them – we accompany them.
We understand that the experiences of men differ to those of women, so we focus on engaging them in a different way. We encourage them to value their health so that they can live a fuller life, whether that be work, hobbies or meaningful connections with family and friends. And we encourage men to prioritise their health by staying connected and seeking support early if something is wrong, from a team of people who care about their wellbeing.
So, who’s on that team?
Obviously, we are. We help look after their physical and mental health and connect them to psycho-social services. But many of our clients have other people in their lives who want to see them get better. Trusted friends or family members to stay socially connected with. Teammates they can stay physically active with, colleagues they can eat healthy lunches with, or other people they meet along the journey.
This year, Men’s Health Week focuses on what it means to have a team. Who’s on your team?
Dr Niall Queiry