June is Men’s Health Month. The health of everyone is important, however the spotlight on men’s health seems to be just beginning to shine brighter. A lot of people might roll their eyes at this since the patriarchy is still alive and kicking, but there is validity in encouraging men to be more aware of their health and to make it a priority.
There are some great organizations that have been gaining attention, such as the Movember Foundation. And with good reason: A lot of men do not take care of their health as much as they could. In comparison to women, men make less health appointments in general, are less likely to go to a doctor even when something does not feel right, and it can probably be correctly assumed that men do not take care of their sexual health as much as women. Men are also more likely to die younger, die by suicide, be violent towards others, abuse drugs, contract HIV, and more.
What’s more is this also means that other people are affected negatively. Human behavior and all that comes with it is like a circle. What one person is experiencing will at some point effect someone else, continuing on and on, reaching more people. We all impact one another in both subtle and obvious ways, and health is a huge, multifaceted part of everyone’s life that plays out daily like this. This is why we are calling men’s health the missing link.
It is also worthwhile to ask, what exactly influences men to take care of their health less? For instance, do health care organizations and providers have a history of not promoting men’s health as much? In an article on men’s health from 2014, the World Health Organization reveals that in many countries men do not take care of their health as well as women and that this can be reflected by health care providers and a country’s overall health care system: “To the best of our knowledge, only three countries – Australia, Brazil and Ireland – have to date attempted to address men’s burden of ill health through the adoption of national, male-centered strategies. Compounding this neglect by policy-makers are negative stereotypes of men on the part of many health-care providers. For instance, some assume that men are largely disinterested in their health – an attitude that can, in turn, discourage men from engaging with health services.” (http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/92/8/13-132795/en/).
Another influence of men’s health can be tied to the way masculinity is often defined. With the mass media effect that television, movies, and music have; as well as comments and opinions from peers, friends, and family, both men and women are often told to stay stuck inside their confining boxes of gender. For men, some familiar and potentially damaging ideas of masculinity are: no pain no gain, man up, be strong, be rebellious.
Health is an enormous, un-ending issue that is not easy to chip away at. However, even though there are a lot of men who are not living their lives as well as possible, the good news is that with the increasing attention and conversation being made about men’s health and the discrepancies that exist, a difference can be made in the health of men and of everyone else.
I hope this inspires all people to be more considerate of their health and others.