June is Men’s Health Month and in 1994, the U.S. Congress designated the week leading up to Father’s Day as Men’s Health Week – a time to raise awareness of preventable health problems and encourage men and boys to seek out early detection and treatment of disease. As a feminist and women’s health advocate, I am well aware of the continued threats to women’s sexual and reproductive health as well as the need to increase access and awareness around those issues.
Still, that doesn’t mean men’s health should go ignored.
As Congressman Bill Richardson said when the House passed its Men’s Health Week resolution, “Recognizing and preventing men’s health problems is not just a man’s issue. Because of its impact on wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, men’s health is truly a family issue.”
Some might say that women are the weaker sex, but I’m betting they haven’t taken a look at the latest health disparities facing American males. The Centers for Disease Control list the top 10 causes of death among all men as heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, suicide, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s disease. These facts from the Men’s Health Network [MHN] paint a grim picture for men’s health as well:
- Men die at higher rates than women from the top 10 causes of death and are the victims of over 92% of workplace deaths.
- In 1920, women lived, on average, one year longer than men. Now, men, on average, die almost six years earlier than women.
- By the age of 100, women outnumber men eight to one.
- Women are 100% more likely to visit the doctor for annual examinations and preventive services than men.
- Depression in men mostly goes undiagnosed, contributing to the fact that men are 4 times as likely than women to commit suicide.
- Testosterone is linked to elevations of LDL, the bad cholesterol, and declines in HDL, the good cholesterol.
- Men have fewer infection-fighting T-cells and are thought to have weaker immune systems than women.
With a recent MHN survey suggesting that nearly 70% of men are more interested in taking care of their cars than their own health, it’s important that we have Men’s Health Week to remind men and the women who love them to get serious about health care. The socialization of males in our culture may contribute to the reluctance of our fathers, brothers, husbands, and friends to proactively seek out care – from a very young age, boys are instructed not to cry, not to show weakness, to “take it like a man,” play through the pain, etc. – but one major factor in getting men to the doctor’s office is through the encouragement of women in their lives. Because women are usually in charge of their family’s care and are more familiar with regular screenings and check-ups, our voices are influential when it comes to urging our guys to treat themselves at least as good as they treat their cars.
This week, take the opportunity to urge the men in your life to be more involved in their own health. Check out the CDC’s Men’s Health page for info on cancer screenings, nutrition, exercise, STDs, diabetes, vaccinations, mental health, and more.