Spotlight on Men’s Health

To coincide with November, we’re encouraging women to help the men in their lives be more proactive about their health.

Men might make up 49 per cent of the Australian population, but they use the country’s health services 30 per cent less than women. So while just 10 per cent of us are unlikely to have seen our GPs in the past year, more than 30 per cent of men are in that boat. It means that males are less likely to see a doctor when they’re unwell, let alone for a preventative check-up.

Dr Karin du Plessis, men’s health and wellbeing research coordinator at Incolink, a joint enterprise of employer associations and unions in the male-dominated construction industry, says that for some men the ‘male identity’ is strongly tied to a reluctance to seek help, so that a common thought process is ‘I can cope on my own’. Her research shows that many men believe it’s not masculine to reach out for professional help. “There was a sentiment that some men are reluctant to seek help because it was potentially an admittance of weakness,” says du Plessis. “However, it’s encouraging to note that men do reach out to those closest to them, like partners and friends.”

To prepare for when the men in your life do just that, here are some facts and figures about prostate cancer and depression, two of Australia’s most prevalent men’s health issues.

Prostate cancer

The risk factors:

Ageing is a recognised risk factor, with 85 per cent of prostate cancers diagnosed in men over 65. A family history of the disease increases risk a first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer doubles a man’s risk, and those with two or more affected relatives are almost four times as likely to develop the disease. The risk is even higher if family members were diagnosed before the age of 60.

The symptoms:

In its early stages, when cure rates are at least 90 per cent, prostate cancer produces few or no symptoms. For this reason, the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia recommends men without a family history of the disease start having an annual check, involving a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal examination, at age 50, while men with a family history should start at 40.

But Dr Stephen Ruthven, president of the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand, says it might pay to start earlier. “The evidence appears overwhelming that men in their 40s have to consult with their GPs regarding the merits of carrying out an early PSA test. With cancer, early detection and treatment often mean the difference between life and death.”

Secret Men’s Business

Some health issues fly under the radar for men and others simply hit the male sex significantly harder:

Osteoporosis: is typically thought of as a female disease, but one in three Australian men over the age of 60 suffer an osteoporotic fracture, compared to one in two women. Despite that, only a quarter of affected Australian men are currently being treated for osteoporosis. To learn about prevention and male-specific risk factors, visit www.osteoporosis.org.au or download the osteoporosis fact sheet from www.andrologyaustralia.org.

Suicide: accounts for 1.6 per cent of deaths in Australia, but is responsible for more than 20 per cent of deaths in men aged 20 to 39, and with men being four times more likely than women to take their own lives, nearly 80 per cent of suicide deaths in Australia are males.

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