It's no secret that males usually don't look after their health as well as females do. 85% of my clients are female, and this trend happens across the board in healthcare, whether it's in natural medicine, GP clinics, hospitals or other health care clinics.
So why is it that many males won't look after their health? Turns out there's some interesting psychology behind the problem, as well as some practical issues that turn men off personal healthcare. Want to look after your man? Here's some info to help you out and, if you're a guy, congrats for reading this & thinking about taking steps to look after yourself.....
First of all, the stats (and yes, they're shocking) ....
Aussie males have an average lifespan of 79 years, compared to Aussie females at 84 years
As a percentage of total deaths from different causes, men are more likely to die from;
Suicide - 78% (males are more than 3 times more likely to suicide)
Cancer of the lung & trachea - 63%
Respiratory disease - 54%
Cancer of the colon & rectum - 54%
Ischaemic Heart Disease - 53%
Males are also much more likely to die from traumatic deaths;
So, if the stats reveal how poorly males are doing in the health stakes, what are the reasons?
Males in our culture are often expected to be tough and resilient, so visiting a healthcare practitioner may be seen as weakness and vulnerability. This attitude may be from the male, those who care about him, or even at health clinics themselves.
The 'invincible' male - accidental deaths among males may be greater because males' sense of competition and toughness may cause them to take greater physical risks
The 'resilient' male - many men will not present with a health issue until it's life-threatening, in an effort to show that it took a serious issue to 'bring them down', thus increasing their sense of machismo. This sense of toughness may also lead to males caring less about the healthiness of their diet, leading to greater levels of illness from poor eating habits.
Men may not deal with a health issue until it becomes functional, interrupting their ability to function in everyday life. This means that disease may have progressed to a more serious level with a higher negative impact on men's health, and less positive treatment resulting
The type of healthcare setting may reduce male involvement. Studies have shown males will not only attend more, but be more engaged with health care when it's provided in a non-traditional setting (Eg Pubs, clubs, sporting events or in the workplace).
Less networking - due to employment, and just because we're guys, we tend to network less than females. This leads to less discussion and understanding about health issues, and a greater sense of alone-ness when guys are faced with health issues of their own.
Hospital & Healthcare Clinic attitudes
When studying Naturopathy at Uni, I presented a research project on this subject. The data at that time showed a level of disdain among hospital and healthcare clinic staff towards males who presented with issues that were not life-threatening. Males who experienced this disdain were less likely to visit such ciinics with any future health issues.
A greater majority of males work full time. As many clinics are open during office hours, males may have difficulty attending clinics for help, especially for preventative healthcare.
Males in industry are often involved in more high-risk occupations (construction, mining, transport) and are therefore more likely to be injured or killed at work
So, what to do about it .....?
Given the above reasons, (and they're only some of the basic causes of poor male health), how can males, and those who care from them, achieve better health?
1) Males respond to gender-specific health care
Men tend to 'switch off' to general health information, but will respond more to information and care that's targeted towards males. This means that healthcare programs need to deal with causes of male health issues and give solutions that address these issues.
2) Males need health care outside the normal clinic or hospital environment
Offering health info for guys in pubs, clubs, sports environments or at work will have a higher rate of male attendence and involvement
3) Health care for guys needs to avoid ridicule (remember the 'man flu' jokes and the 'blokes are such wimps' comments you've heard when males suffer from anything other than a lethal or serious disease)? If your guy has any minor signs of illness, fear of such ridicule will not usually encourage him to take any action until it develops into a more serious problem. While us guys like appearing tough on the outside, there's often a vulnerable and afraid person underneath.
In my clinic.....
I find that most male clients are really interested in facts and figures (quantitative information). Giving guys the results of blood tests, or talking about how their alcohol intake or occupation effects sperm function tends to get greater attention and response than general health information. If I can give a guy something to do that will impact his next blood test result or sperm function result, he's usually more willing to get on board and be involved in the action.
Most of my male clients are more likely to be vulnerable and open when they attend by themselves, and when they realise that I approach their health from a bloke's perspective, will usually follow up on my recommendations for tests and treatment.
So, I approach my male and female clients differently, and it's obvious from the data that we need to view males for what they are; different, unique, often afraid and vulnerable, and wanting to be treated with respect by using do-able strategies that give measurable results.
If you're a male reading this, or anyone who cares for a bloke and his health, understanding what's going on behind the scenes may just help you to take positive steps towards better male health. And if all us guys get on board with our personal healthcare, we'll be better able to keep being strong and able to meet all the demands of life in our work, sport and caring for those we love.
Here's a couple of references from which I've taken most of my information for this blog...
ABS link (2010)