Why is the mental and physical health of many men so poor?
There is no single answer to this. It’s clear that many factors cutting across diet, lifestyle, psychology and social norms coalesce to give poorer health outcomes for men.
Seven statistics we have pulled together highlight the gulf between men and women when it comes to health and wellbeing.
It might not come as a surprise that men take more risks, engage in more harmful behaviours, are less engaged in managing their health, and are less likely to seek help or support with mental health issues from a medical professional.
But understanding some of the root causes of the stark inequalities in health means we can do something about it.
We have offered three simple solutions that men can act on immediately to improve both physical and mental health.
Did you know…
- Men are statistically more likely than women to engage in activities that are detrimental to their health, like alcohol and substance abuse, poor diet, and exercise habits.
- Only half as many men are diagnosed with depression and anxiety as women, yet three-quarters of all suicide cases are men.
- Women seek help from professionals regarding mental health at around double the rate that men, meaning women are over 40% more likely to have been treated for their mental health problems.
- Women aged 20-40 are twice as likely as men to visit their GP.
- Men report significantly lower levels of physical activity than women.
- Women tend to sleep for longer than men each night, meaning this important period of recovery and replenishment of their mind and body is minimised. (Men that slept less than 7 hours per night were around a third more likely to develop diabetes and almost 50% more likely to die from coronary heart disease than individuals that slept more than this).
- Working more than 55 hours per week has been shown to increase the risk for symptoms of anxiety by 74% and depression by 68% when compared to a 40-hour working week.
The reasons for this discrepancy between the sexes could lie in pressure to conform to masculine norms, which has been shown to negatively impact men’s experience of depression.
This also impacts their coping strategies and their likelihood of seeking help. Pressure to conform to western expectations of ‘what a man should be’ seemingly lead men to avoid addressing issues related to their mental health in the fear that it would be unacceptable.
While we all can be guilty of these, men seem most likely to do these things and suffer the consequences. Even though the causes of these issues are complex, the solutions do not need to be.
While the statistics on men’s mental health seem bleak, you can still take control:
Strong evidence supports that individuals who perform regular exercise are happier, more positive and more mentally resilient than those that perform none or low amounts.
Overall, their quality of life is better in multiple ways. When sedentary individuals increase their physical activity, they reduce their chances of depression by 45% and it is estimated that as little as 60 minutes of exercise per week could prevent 12% of depression cases each year.
Research also shows that individuals who consume a Mediterranean diet, including more vegetables, lean meats and healthy fats, are 33% less likely to develop depression compared to those adhering to a conventional western diet.
Getting your eight hours of sleep per night, eating well, exercising regularly, and managing stress are things that everyone can do – no matter your age, lifestyle, or history.
Everyone can make a change to positively affect their health.
Don’t be afraid to seek help for your issues and take the necessary steps to improve your mental health and wellbeing.