Why most men die earlier than women

Men spotted buying Valentine's gifts on February 14, 2023. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

In a world that healthcare is ostensibly a primary concern for most people especially women, it is not the case for men. Wellness is simply put on the back burner for a lot of men.

Men are said to be 50 per cent less likely to seek medical attention as other things, such as work or other obligations, are given more priority.

According to a 2019 World Health Organisation report, women generally outlive men. This is because men fall sick much younger and generally die earlier. But more appalling is that many men die from preventable illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, among others.

But what could be the cause for the poor health-seeking behaviour among men? There are a number of factors that men consider an impediment to seeking health care services.

Cultural norms are one of the leading factors. Some cultures have wired men not to show emotions or weakness. A man is supposed to toughen up as he is considered an alpha. A man could be at his breaking point but will not reach out to anyone for help until it's too late to salvage him. The aspect of masculinity and the inaccurate perception of one falling sick, is a show of frailty.

Unlike women, men are statistically known to take medical advice from friends, family, or the internet as opposed to healthcare providers. They tend to hold serious conversations in pubs or other social joints but hardly make room for health-related talks. Going to the hospital is perceived by a majority as time consuming.

The burden bestowed upon men to provide for their families is another contributing factor. A man will most likely spend most of his time working at the expense of his health.

Some also argue that medical care is expensive and therefore opt to self-medicate by buying drugs over the counter.

Mental and sexual health related issues such as mood disorders or erectile dysfunction are among the health concerns that men shy away from or at least talk about in hushed tones. This is because anything that seemingly touches on their 'manhood' is not welcomed.

It's about time that men took control of their health and also have some level of accountability to show for it. This can only happen if men change how they perceive health and self-care. There is nothing wrong about someone taking care of themselves or prioritising their health or even seeking help.

In addition, conversations around men's health need to be more amplified and more awareness raised on the same. If each man can reach one, then the pace will pick up and more men will take wellness more seriously.

We need to create safe spaces that men can easily talk about their health issues without judgment or prejudice. This notwithstanding, men need to understand it's okay not to be okay. And it's also okay to get help when they need it.

Medical care costs should be affordable to make it easier for them especially those on lower job group levels to have access to. This will ensure that no man is left behind and medical care won't be treated as an afterthought.

When all is said and done, it is important that men prioritise their healthcare because no one will do it for them. Understanding how one's body functions, and the ability to detect things like burnout or fatigue, is the first step of taking control of one's health.

It is also important for men to take up preventive care which includes an annual or biannual wellness checkup. This will ensure early detection of any underlying illnesses.

Further, eating right and exercising is part of ensuring that men stay physically fit. And when overwhelmed by issues of life, taking care of one's mind is important. Keeping the right social system such as family and friends, ensures that men stay mentally healthy.

Dr Omari is the Resident Medical Officer at City Health Hospital