It’s no secret that I am absolutely nuts about men’s health. One way I spend my time is reading and summarizing different research studies about the topic. A lot of these studies look at disparities in men’s health, but I am interested in why they exist in the first place.
A few weeks back, I decided to poll my social media followers with a simple question—“Why don’t men discuss their health?” I was amazed by all the different responses. So far, we’ve explored Response 1 (“Men aren’t told to check themselves at doctor’s appointments”), Response 2 (“It’s awkward to talk to my mom about it”), Response 3 (“Talking about your health isn’t ‘masculine/manly/macho’’), and Response 4 (“There is no Susan G. Komen for men.”).
Over my next several columns, I will continue to share the collected responses and what we can do to fix them. We’re ball(s) deep into June’s Men’s Health Month, and this next response is all too common.
Response #5: “Men think they are invincible.”
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Robert Downey, Jr. portrays Tony Stark—aka the Invincible Iron Man. Over eleven years, it appeared Stark lived up to his alter ego and nothing could stop him…
That is, until Avengers: Endgame (and if you haven’t seen it yet, despite the movie coming out in April 2019, I am about to spoil it). After forming a second Infinity Gauntlet and dusting Thanos and his army, Iron Man passed away from injuries sustained from the Snap.
Tragic? Yes. Tear-jerking? No doubt. Invincible? Not so much.
However, despite my delusions hopes, the Avengers are not real. But Endgame does mirror reality. According to the CDC, women outlive men by an average of approximately five years. Furthermore, in 2016, women’s life expectancy was 81. Since 1900, men’s life expectancy has never risen above 77.
Similarly, the National Cancer Institute reports that the mortality rate of men with cancer is nearly 1.5 times that of women. Even more alarmingly, the National Institute of Mental Health says that men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women.
These are just a few statistics that paint a very somber yet clear picture.
Not only are men not invincible, we actually pass away at a younger age and a faster rate than our female counterparts.
Mortality rates for men in cancer are higher for a relatively simple reason: Men don’t take care of their health, neglect their symptoms, and put off going to the doctor. By the time they finally get there, the cancer has progressed to more advanced stages, making it harder to treat. Even in my own case of testicular cancer, where I went to a doctor soon after discovering a lump, it had already begun to spread throughout my body.
In the case of suicide, men don’t often speak up about their mental health struggles until it’s too late. We’ll be delving more into shame and stigma in upcoming editions of these posts, but it plays a role in this discrepancy.
Men need to be educated on these figures.
It took me a cursory look through the internet to find the aforementioned points, and now that they’re compiled in one place, making them even easier to share.
Talk with the men in your life about these data points. Through open communication and encouraging men to place a stronger emphasis on their physical and mental well-being, we can even out the score.
When we all assemble to educate men, it won’t take an Avenger to save the men’s health universe.
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