Nutritionist Poole

Is Men’s Health An Undiagnosed Epidemic?

Globally, male life expectancy is 68 years which is five years less than females. There isn’t a single country in the world where male life expectancy exceeds that of females and by 2030 male life expectancy is expected to be seven years less than females, (1).

The global suicide rate in men is almost twice that in women and in Europe the ratio is the biggest. Men also have a higher incidence rate in 32 of 35 cancer sites and the death rate for cardiovascular disease is higher for men,(1)

Men are also more likely to die of tobacco use and alcohol-related issues. Almost one million more men than women died from dietary risk factors, such as low fruit and vegetable intake and eating too much processed meat,(1).

In addition, 90% of deaths attributable to occupational risk factors in 2010 were male. These include injuries and exposure to particulate matter, gasses and fumes in the workplace, and about 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic accidents; some three-quarters (73%) are men, (1).

But what could be causing these striking disparities in men’s health? Strong beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypes of masculinity may be prevalent and harmful for men’s health. These beliefs may create social barriers that prevent men from seeking medical services and expose them to these risks. In particular, tobacco and alcohol consumption contribute strongly to life-expectancy differences; for example, data from 2016 showed that 34% of men and only 6% of women reported smoking tobacco daily in populations older than 15 years. Additionally, mortality attributable to violence and road injuries is higher in men than in women. In Europe, around three-quarters of all road traffic deaths are in men younger than 25 years and in the UK suicide is the single biggest cause of death in men younger than 50 years, (2).

A study by the WHO showed that the main disease-related killers are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and respiratory diseases. It also showed that injuries are the second leading cause of premature death among men and the main cause of death for boys aged 5–19. Men go less frequently to the doctor and report unmet healthcare needs. In lower socio-economic groups men demonstrate unhealthier smoking practices, dietary patterns, higher alcohol consumption levels and higher rates of injuries and interpersonal violence than women, (3).

The WHO has a strategy for the health and wellbeing of men in the European Region. A key trigger for this attention is the high level of premature mortality among men, and the adverse mortality among working age men has a profound demographic, economic and political impact, and the burden of premature mortality is so great, it is considered to be a natural and unmodifiable phenomenon, (3).

Self-harm and suicide are also significant causes of death and an underlying cause of suicide is depression, which is the second-highest cause of years lived with disability in men, (3).

There is also a general agreement that men’s reproductive health needs are not being met, including in relation to family planning, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, healthy sexuality and infertility (4).

The main objectives of the strategy are to reduce premature mortality, improve health and wellbeing among men of all ages, improving gender equality through structures and policies that advance men’s engagement in self-care, fatherhood, unpaid care, violence prevention and sexual and reproductive health, (4).

It’s not surprising that the WHO are taking these steps, and that there are so many men’s health charities and organisations popping up. One in five men in the UK die before the age of 65. The numbers of deaths from ischaemic heart diseases (IHD) and cerebrovascular disease have decreased over time, but IHD remains the leading cause of death in males, (4).

Man Health.org which is a charity for men’s health have listed that the 5 biggest killers for men, which are:

Heart Disease –
Men are almost twice as likely as women to die from coronary heart disease, (5).

Prostate cancer –
More than 47,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, (5).

Lung cancer –
1 in 13 UK males will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime, compared to 1 in 15 females, (5).

Bowel cancer –
1 in 15 UK males will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime, compared to one in 18 females, (5).

Suicide –
3 out of 4 suicides are men. The Construction industry has the highest rates of suicide per industry, killing more men than accidents and injuries every year, (5).

They also state that men face male-specific stigma, poorer health risk assessment, gendered coping strategies that impact health negatively, social isolation, and are embarrassed and fearful of attending health appointments, (5).

These statistics paint a bleak picture for men, who are often told to ‘man up’ in the face of adversity, and this is why I’ll be dedicating a large proportion of my research within the first half of 2023 to men’s health, so watch this space as I delve into men’s chronic health conditions, the stress/gut connection, men’s hormones, diet and nutrition advice and case studies so far, (5).

  1. https://wchh.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/tre.519
  2. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(19)32759-X/fulltext
  3. https://www.who.int/europe/news-room/fact-sheets/item/men-s-health
  4. https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/378165/68wd12e_MensHealthStrategy_180480.pdf
  5. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/articles/leadingcausesofdeathuk/2001to2018