Compared to women, men live sicker and die younger.
This is a concerning matter, backed by years of statistical trends that track health disparities among populations.
- Life expectancy: In 1920, men lived on average one year less than women. By 2017, the gap had widened to 5 years.
- Age-based mortality: At every age, men are at a greater risk of death.
- Causes of death: Among men, the leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer, and accidental death.
Why Are Men So Unhealthy?
Biological Reasons Men’s Health is at Risk
Biology can play a part in longevity. Let’s look at body fat. Due to estrogen, women tend to store subcutaneous (under-the-skin) fat in their hips, thighs, breasts, and buttocks. On the other hand, men tend to store more visceral fat — the dangerous kind of fat — that sits inside the abdominal cavity and wraps around organs. Visceral fat has a strong correlation to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high cholesterol, and other conditions that affect health and longevity.
On the younger end of the spectrum, differences in brain development are a factor. The frontal lobe develops more slowly in adolescent boys than girls. This is the part of the brain that controls judgement, self-control, and decision-making, and may be to blame for the higher rate of accidents and violence that claim the lives of young men more so than their female counterparts.
Behavioral Reasons Men’s Health is at Risk
Biology may play a role, but biological differences alone can’t explain why the health and life expectancy gap is widening. Behavioral, societal, and environmental factors are largely at play when it comes to the health disparity between men and women.
- The most dangerous occupations, such as construction, firefighting, and mining, are employed mostly by men.
- Societal pressure discourages healthy behaviors in men and celebrates risk-taking as a sign of masculinity. So, men are more apt than women to use tobacco, drink alcohol, and skip doctor visits. In fact, men make half as many preventative doctor visits as women, and even when sick, 60% still do not visit the doctor.
- More men than women have no healthcare coverage.
The Impact of this Silent Health Crisis
While this silent health crisis affects men and their families at all ages, its effects become especially stark when looking at the elderly population.
- Men enter Medicare in poorer condition than women, and at a time when mortality rates are highest for men.
- Older women who are widowed are more likely to live in poverty and rely on public assistance than if their husbands were still living.
- In 2012, 69% of the aging population that lived alone was women. In 2020, it was 80%.
- At age 100, women outnumber men 8-1.
All of this creates undue and unequal burden on our public health systems and impacts society at large.
What Can Men Do to Live Healthier and Longer Lives?
There is good news! Since the causes of this health crisis are largely behavioral, we have the power to change it! And the most important step men can take is this: Don’t avoid medical care.
Men, we encourage you to do the following:
- See a doctor at least annually for a checkup (and don’t forget about the dentist, too!)
- Commit to making at least one lifestyle change this month (stop smoking, eat healthier meals, start an exercise regimen, pick up an activity that can help you de-stress, etc.)
- Educate yourself on signs, symptoms, and preventative measures of health issues that affect men, such as testicular cancer, prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc. Schedule a screening test if you have any concerns at all. Disease is easiest to treat when it’s caught early.
Men, We Want To See You Healthy!
June is Men’s Health Month, so now is a great time to put the spotlight on men’s health — but we at In and Out Express Care encourage men to focus on their health all throughout the year.
If you haven’t been to the doctor in a while, even if you think you’re healthy, come on in for a checkup! We’re not just here for urgent care. Our friendly doctors are available for physicals and annual wellness visits. We’d be happy to see you at any one of our four convenient locations in Hampton Roads. We love you, guys — and we want you to thrive!