Imagine our life without men.
Without husbands, fathers, brothers, sons. As if they simply disappeared.
Of course, you already know that men die younger. Did you know that the difference in life expectancy is quite impressive, namely, 6 years? Let’s make this statistic more personal — supposedly, as a man, you will die 6 years earlier than the special lady in your life, whereas if you are a woman, your beloved will most probably die 6 years before you do. Shall we prevent this? Likbez will look into men’s health to find out what can be done to improve the current situation.
This article is intended for informative purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for a doctor’s recommendation or a guide to self-medication. The material was written by journalists based on official sources, not by doctors. The editorial staff cannot be held responsible for the diagnoses formed by the readers themselves with reference to this article or the included links. We are against self-medication. Consult a doctor immediately in case of health-related problems or anxiety about one’s own or another individual’s health!
“When it comes to health, men are the weaker sex.”
— Harvard Medical School
Where the problem lies
The issue of men’s health is usually not considered quite as important as that of women’s health. Men are always alright. They never have any pain. “Don’t exaggerate” is their common response to concerns about their health. In the meantime, most causes of male deaths can be prevented. Statistically, by the age of 50, at least 37% of all men and 47% of women have chronic illnesses. Yet they are the cause of far less deaths among women because the latter use health-care services more often and are more attentive to their well-being.
Did you know that 60% of men seek help when their health problem becomes absolutely unbearable and 7% never see a doctor as adults? Were you aware that every 9th man is diagnosed with prostate cancer? What about the fact that 75% of all suicides in the year 2016 were committed by men?
Men’s health was placed in the public spotlight by the Australian social campaign Movember. The main idea is for men to grow out a moustache every November, thus attracting attention to their health. Each and every person who asks a moustachioed man about his facial hair is sure to get a reference to the key facts and statistics. In this manner, more men will think about the problems of their condition, they will undergo the necessary treatment and, possibly, save not only their own lives but also those of their friends and family members. Many participants likewise donate to foundations that are focused on research and education in the field of men’s health.
Why men die earlier than women
The concept of the ‘gender gap’, an indicator that determines the equality of the sexes, tends to negatively apply to women. But not in the case of life expectancy. Below we have listed the main reasons for the considerable differences in life expectancy between men and women, based on the data of the Harvard Medical school.
- Biological factors
Female sex chromosomes are an XX pair, men have an XY combination. The male Y chromosome is a third smaller than the female X. Some of the genes contained in it can be linked to illnesses that result in a faster death. Additionally, the female oestrogen hormone acts as a defensive mechanism against cardiovascular diseases. This may explain why women develop cardiovascular diseases 10 years later than men. In turn, the male testosterone hormone may be the cause of high-risk and aggressive behaviour, which causes problems for many young guys, including health problems.
- Social and behavioural factors
These factors develop based on cultural characteristics. Meaning they can be influenced. For instance, men used to spend a lot more time at work than women, which is why they experienced excessive stress. Today the situation is changing, which gradually improves the state of affairs for both genders in their own way. Apart from stress problems, the mens’ social component is not as well developed as among women. It is highly likely that this formed under the influence of social ideas that are imposed upon boys. Consequently, it is far harder for them to make friends, to share their problems and express their emotions. Other examples of behaviour factors include smoking, alcohol consumption, food peculiarities, a lack of physical activities, and an absence of regular medical examinations.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) claims that nothing affects the difference in life expectancy between men and women as much as the fact that men simply do not care about their own health! According to survey results, over the past year, men were 3 times less likely to see a doctor than women. During medical examinations, it is possible to notice diseases such as cancer, making it far more likely to cure them. Cancer does not show any symptoms at the early stages, hence, only an annual medical check-up can help to detect the first signs and ensure that the problem is resolved in time. Experiments show that the majority of men even discuss their health with reluctance. They are willing to talk about it only in the context of injuries that they have endured. On the other hand, interestingly enough, 20% admitted that they would go to see a doctor for the sole purpose of stopping their better half from bothering them about it. :)
"75% of all suicides in the year 2016 were committed by men."
— World Health Organisation
Why masculinity is to blame
It has been proven that men who adhere to traditional views on masculinity are less likely to consult doctors and less honest about their medical history and any symptoms. From a psychological standpoint, some manifestations of stereotypical male behaviour are regarded as toxic, since they are detrimental to men and those who surround them. These are, for example, restricted expression of emotions, domination, brutality, (sexual) aggression, homophobia, sexism, and others. In terms of statistics, men commit 90% of all murders in the USA and constitute 77% of all victims. Social tendencies (such as peer bullying or corporal punishment in family circles) results in the fact that boys begin to follow aggressive behavioural patterns themselves.
The stereotypical notion of masculinity is entirely at odds with men seeking help elsewhere, particularly from doctors. Men think they need to figure everything out by themselves. “Seeing a doctor includes certain aspects that can be especially uncomfortable for men – they do not want to ask for advice or show that they cannot or do not know how to do something,” emphasises a professor at the University of Florida.
"Men need to rethink their idea of strength. A truly strong, healthy person embraces routine health care, health consultation and daily healthy habits to truly protect his body, not just his own self-image."
an expert in the field of masculinity and men’s psychology at the University of Florida
Another side effect of the stereotypical perceptions of masculinity is the consumption of alcohol in large doses. In the year 2010, for instance, the number of deaths on account of excessive alcohol consumption was twice as frequent among men as opposed to women. Alcohol is believed to partly constitute the image of a ‘real’ man.
HIV and AIDS also has an impact on premature male deaths. Due to the influence of society, guys consider these illnesses to be shameful. The situation is exacerbated by the creation of taboos and the culture of silence exploited by states, which, adhering to traditional views on gender roles, conceal the de facto statistics on HIV and AIDS. Men do not get themselves tested, do not want to undergo treatment, and, generally, would rather die than “brand” themselves with such a diagnosis. Literally.
Proponents of traditional views on the norms of male behaviour are also far more likely to face psychological difficulties such as depression and problems with the perception of their own bodies. It is difficult for them to bear the burden of responsibility for the well-being of their families and to be the main or the only breadwinner. Terrorised by their fear of defeat, men with traditional ideas often resort to psychoactive substances such as alcohol, among others.
Drawing the line is important: expressions of masculinity are generally not at all toxic. The authors of the guidelines for psychological practice for boys and men underline the fact that aggression, domination and other typically masculine traits can be and are healthy and essential. Specific behavioural patterns that stem from the traditional male image, on the contrary, are injurious to health and welfare. An example would be an excessively and indiscriminately aggressive reaction to any given situation.
Main male illnesses
Below we have compiled a list of the main male diseases in order to give you a general idea of what to fear, to check for, to read up about on Wikipedia, or what to talk about with your friends.
- Prostate cancer
One in every 9 men has prostate cancer during his lifetime. This is the most common type of male cancer. It is particularly dangerous for men over 50, which is why doctors recommend them seeing a urologist on a regular basis.
Prostatitis is a common inflammation of the prostate gland. It constitutes 8% of all urological diseases.
- Testicular cancer
Testicular cancer is rare, but usually affects men from 15(!) to 49 years of age. If detected at an early stage, testicular cancer is easily treatable. Doctors highly recommend guys to undergo a monthly self-examination of their testicles in the shower. Instructions for self-examination is available in the short manual and the 20-second video.
- Hair loss and baldness
Hair loss and baldness is typical for the majority of men. Two-thirds have experienced hair loss by the age of 35. Approximately 25% of men who face baldness notice the first indications before the age of 20.
- Prostate adenoma (or prostatic hyperplasia, BPH, prostate enlargement)
Prostate adenoma is a benign tumour in the prostate that grows and gradually squeezes down upon the urethra, which causes men to have problems with urination.
- STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
This point concerns both men and women in equal measure. Among the different STDs, there is syphilis, gonorrhoea, HPV, genital herpes, HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, etc.
- Psychological issues and mental disorders
75% of all suicides in 2016 were committed by men. A third of British guys admitted that they sometimes hide in the bathroom simply to ‘get some peace of mind’. To this end, men spend an average of about 7 hours in the bathroom per year! In the paragraph “Solutions to the problem”, we make recommendations that will help to improve the psychological state of men.
- Ejaculation disorders (seed discharge)
- Reduced or absent sexual desire
- Erectile dysfunction (impotence)
- Male infertility
- Male climax
An extensive list of male illnesses can be found at this link. Explanations and descriptions can be read here. Detailed guides and videos on the different subjects that may interest you are available here. This link provides an explanatory video about the male reproductive system and genitals.
The following are specialists that men should see, as well as check-ups worth taking at different ages. We rely on the recommendations of Dr. Ulyana Suprun and the Cleveland Academic Medical Centre.
- 18-39 years old
An annual blood pressure check (75% of men suffer from cardiovascular diseases during their lives, it is the number one cause of male deaths).
Monthly self-examination of the testicles.
Blood test to check cholesterol levels every 5 years.
Diabetes screening tests and a comprehensive examination of the cardiovascular system every 3 years (more often if overweight).
In case of prostate cancer in the family medical history, prostate cancer screenings are advised.
Colorectal cancer screenings every 5-10 years (before the age of 50 if there are cases of colorectal cancer in the family medical history).
Prostate cancer screenings.
- In addition:
No matter your age, if you did not undergo a medical examination in adulthood, make sure to do so as soon as possible. Don’t forget to get a HIV and STD test and to see a dentist. It has been proven that poor oral hygiene leads to many unpleasant diseases. If you experience psychological stress, consult a psychologist, there are even online consultations. In point of fact, a lot more people see a psychologist than you may think. And this is normal. Ask your specialist in general medicine to define your personalised test and screening plan, so you know what to expect. Make sure that the doctor keeps your family's medical history in mind. If you are afraid to forget about your regular check-ups, set up reminders for your annual comprehensive examination and your monthly testicular self-examination.
If you are scared to undergo examinations, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most men are afraid of seeing a doctor, especially a proctologist. They do not know what to expect and are afraid to be vulnerable or not man enough during a prostate check (look below for a complete overview of the reasons why men do not see doctors). We found a 2-minute long video on how a prostate check works, so you know what to expect. If you’re not sure, if it’s alright to ask a doctor certain questions, we have created a list of 10 of the most ‘shameful’ questions to make it easier for you. You’re not the only one who wants to find out some strange details about yourself and your own body. The most important thing when it comes to seeing a doctor is to begin to understand and accept yourself, your body, and to be aware of your predispositions to particular diseases in order to prevent them in time.
Solutions to the problem
- Gradually change attitudes towards men and their health
National strategies to improve men’s health and increase life expectancy have so far been implemented in only 3 countries: Australia, Brazil and Ireland. In any case, you can always start with yourself and your male friends. The WHO suggests to:
1) Start educating boys from a young age:
For instance, by initiating talks with schoolchildren who have not yet fully formed values and stereotypes about gender roles. This will help to establish a healthy relationship between guys and girls, prevent cruelty towards intimate partners, achieve gender equality, reduce the risk of STDs and, of course, help boys understand what it means to be a man or rather, a human being in the best sense of the term.
2) Raise awareness of the importance of men’s health and well-being at the workplace,
and actively work with marginalised groups of men (minority men, male prisoners, and men who have sex with other men — these segments of the population are more likely to get sick and die at a younger age). An example of this strategy may be initiatives implemented in Australia, the US and Western European countries where authorities promote social campaigns in bars, sports clubs, barbershops, schools, and workplaces aimed at men to encourage them to lose weight and quit smoking. In this TED Talk the speaker explores why it is so effective to talk to men about their health in places where they feel relaxed and safe.
3) Help men work on their mental health:
A study has shown that men are willing to receive assistance with their psychological and physical health, but the concept of psychological health for men has to be adapted to something that would result in their power, which they are so worried about. At the moment, working on your problems is perceived as something shameful. It is seen as a last resort for a man who cannot solve his problems on his own. “Masculinity is not ‘one-size fits all’, it comes in all shapes and sizes,” emphasises Zac Seidler, the curator of the project to support men.
Another study has shown that men today experience a certain conflict concerning the understanding of masculinity, which aggravates their psychological problems, causing panic and withdrawal. And this is an absolutely normal reaction. Men, as well as women, often find it difficult to understand themselves and what society requires of them. The difference being that women, thanks to their emotionality and strong social bonds, share their state of mind with others and can promptly get the necessary support. There are now social projects being organised for men whereby psychologists and volunteers help guys define the principles of ‘new masculinity’, understand the causes of aggression and accustom them to an important skill that has been tabooed by society — recognising their emotions and expressing their feelings. Thus, for example, there are now ‘new dads’ in society who contribute to the children’s upbringing, caring for them in the same capacity as mothers do, and who fulfil their roles as parents in a different way to ‘traditional fathers’.
4) Adjusting the image of a ‘real man’ in the media
Ads, the cinema, TV programmes, the press, and even music greatly influence the worldview formation of boys. Campaigns such as Movember (#movember) already mentioned above, MENtion It and even #metoo work with gender stereotypes and help men to form their own vision of masculinity. Speaking of, the 19th of November is International Men’s Day, whereas the 15th to the 21st of June is the Week of Men’s Health. On these dates, brands, activists, and influencers can once again draw the attention of the general public to the problem of masculinity and male health, just like women do on the 8th of March.
"Masculinity is not ‘one-size fits all’, it comes in all shapes and sizes."
— Zac Seidler
the curator of the project to support men, researcher in the field of male mental health
- Benefit yourself and your lifestyle
Start with yourself: read a few articles on the subject, go for a general examination, focus on yourself and your own body, pay attention to your emotions, and don’t be afraid to express them. Here are a few recommendations to improve the lifestyle of men:
1) Move about more often and do sports:
regular physical activity is recommended in order to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and to keep your weight, cholesterol level and blood pressure in check. The WHO suggests at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activities per week, but even a minimum amount of effort improves health.
2) Reconsider your eating habits:
eat more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, milk products and nuts, and less red meat, fatty milk products, very salty food, sweets, canned and fizzy drinks.
3) Reduce stress and pay attention to your mental health:
try to communicate more with others, form stronger and more trusting social ties, gradually learn to understand your own emotions and don’t be afraid of expressing them.
4) Get rid of toxic masculinity:
while consciously focusing on your emotions and feelings, remember who you are and be yourself. Don’t pretend to be a tough guy, this takes up too much time and energy. Here are some significant manifestations of toxic masculinity that you can discard: all forms of tobacco, more than 1-2 alcoholic beverages a day, high-risk behaviour (this includes drugs, unprotected sex and reckless driving).
5) Try to use sun cream, avoid exposing yourself to x-rays and toxins
6) Regularly see a doctor and conduct testicular self-examinations
- Exchange information and support each other when spending time with the guys
70% of men insist that their friends can rely on them for support, but only 48% believe that they can count on their friends. Try to let your friends know that they can ask you for help and that you would be happy to assist them in any situation. It may be that your friend is going through a rough patch at this very moment and is simply afraid to say so. Please, hear what he’s not saying. Tell the guys you know all that you have learned in this article, share the statistics, explain that there is nothing to be ashamed of when seeing a doctor or a psychologist, for example. Maybe this will not only help someone, but also save their life.
“Do not hesitate. If something has changed downstairs, consult your therapist. The sooner you do so, the sooner it will all end well. No amount of shame is worth dying for."
a guy who saw a doctor in the nick of time and survived testicular cancer
In his book "Gender Development and Globalisation”, Terryl Blackwell recounted an interesting anecdote that was published some time ago in The Wall Street Journal. In the 1960s, Muhammed Ali, who, at the time, was a fearless boxing legend, was heading off on a trip. During take-off, the stewardess asked him to fasten his seatbelt, but Ali ignored her request. The stewardess repeated herself, but the boxer retorted, “Superman does not need a seatbelt”. The stewardess responded, “Superman doesn’t need a plane either. Strap yourself in.” And he did.
Instead of fretting about looking weak, try not to look stupid. More educated people, by the way, have better health indicators. The WHO attracts attention to the advantages of male psychological and physical well-being not only for the men themselves but also for the women and children that they are associated with. There is a very interesting photography project that shows how men destroy traditional masculine stereotypes and what is ‘normal’ for them.
Fortunately, younger generations of men are already starting to change the situation for the better. This link, for instance, provides a compilation of TED Talks about the development of a new concept of masculinity, whereas a report on a British study of masculinity found that, for the first time in history, a large portion of men have declared that they valued their mental health even more than their physical health. Among them, as many as 75.9% of all millennials (18-29 years old) believe that mental health is either ‘important’ or ‘very important’.
Men are ready to talk; we just have to learn to listen to them and hear what they are saying.
- Esquire: Movember Is Coming. Here's What You Need to Know.
- The Guardian: The age when you hit 'peak loneliness' – and other life milestones
- The New York Times: Not Your Father’s Masculinity
- Reframing masculinity
- The Guardian: Putting men in the frame. Images of a new masculinity
- The New Yorker: Can Masculinity Be Redeemed?
- The Atlantic: The Miseducation of the American Boy
- What is the New Masculinity
- The Atlantic: Today’s Masculinity Is Stifling
- TED Playlist: How masculinity is evolving
- Does Adherence to Masculine Norms Shape Fathering Behavior?
text: likbez media
translation: dasha evsina
photos: unsplash, freepik
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