Opening Up About Men’s Health

While doing research for this article I came across the fact that nagging men is good for their health. Let me explain. Apparently, men are much less likely than women to look after their health and see their doctor… 25% less likely to have visited a health care provider in the past year and a whopping 40% more likely to skip recommended blood screening. In fact ‘nagging’ from women is given as the main reason men ever get their health checked out1.

Change is definitely needed and we need to encourage men to speak about their health and listen to their bodies. Serious diseases and health conditions can affect men at any time in their life, though statistically, the age between 60 – 68 is documented as the average age to develop different cancers, heart disease and other nasties. Unfortunately the thinking of men around this age can be equated to a lifelong masculine behaviour of not showing weakness and a she’ll be right mate! attitude.

The top five causes of premature death for men are chronic disease such as ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, stoke and prostate cancer. Diseases which, in general, are less likely to occur or could be avoided, by adopting healthy lifestyle changes and regular health checks. So what stops our men from seeking help early or talking about their bits. Historically it has never really been socially acceptable for men, in general, to speak openly about their health problems or to ask for help. Whether for health related issues (general or mental), work issues or social guidance. It has in the past been seen as a weakness for our masculine society.

Women on the other hand have been more open with friends and even to some extent supported by the media in health issues. Pink Ribbon Day is one example where events are organised, Facebook pages dedicated, and merchandise companies involved in painting their stock pink. This is not the same when prostate or testicular cancer is discussed. Could it be that as a society we are more used to seeing breasts out in the open, whereas men’s prostate and testicles are hidden behind clothing not noticeable (well only maybe if speedos are being worn!!).  Breast size, gravity and sexuality of breasts is discussed by women and men and in most cases in normal everyday conversation. I feel that this is not the same for the size, gravity and sexuality of men’s balls.

So is there an answer? Men’s Health Week can at least be a start, it may be a way of beginning a conversation and to check with your partner or family member if they have had a health check-up recently. Have they had their prostate checked and how often do they feel their balls? Of course it is not only physical body parts that need checking – mental health issues are also important.  A wonderful program for men has been the “Men’s Shed” which brings men together in a social situation that may make them feel more at ease.  Generally talking about health problems should be encouraged and acted upon if there are any concerns or questions.

So, this Men’s Health Week I will hang up my shower-proof poster about self-examination of testicles, ask my men: R U OK? and hopefully open up more discussion around health that will make it easier for them to talk. I just have to nag them first to take out the rubbish – after all, doing that job for me may also save their life.

1. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/06/men-die.aspx

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