Three Men's Health Concerns

November is Men’s Health Awareness Month and whilst we all witness the moustaches appearing (some quicker than others!) we don’t always stop to remember the causes behind the facial hair.

On average men die 3.7 years earlier than women. In 2019, 22.5% of all deaths in the UK were considered avoidable (136,146 deaths out of 604,707), according to the Office For National Statistics Avoidable mortality in the UK: 2019 survey. The male rate was much higher than the female rate though with 272.9 of 100,000 deaths in 2019 in England being considered avoidable, compared to 171.3 of 100,000 for women. (Statista)

But what are the most common conditions which are threatening men? We look at three of the most influential, what the risk factors are, and how to spot the signs.

Suicide

Men are three times more likely to die from suicide than women in England in 2020. The male suicide rate was 15.3 per 100,000 compared to the female suicide rate of 4.9 per 100,000. It is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. But it isn’t just young men at risk, males aged 45-49 continue to have the highest suicide rate (23.8 per 100,000).

It’s not completely understood why men are more vulnerable to suicide than women but it is widely suggested that men are less likely to open up and talk about their emotions through fear of looking weak or vulnerable.

Risk Factors

According to Samaritans research in 2012, there are some key factors that can increase the risk of suicide, these include:

Being male and masculinity – it's too simplistic to say men don't talk about their emotions but they are more likely to feel the pressure to provide and protect those around them and don't always like to ask for help, or admit they are struggling. 

Relationship breakdowns – marriage or relationship breakdowns are more likely to lead men to suicide than women.

Mid-life – people are experiencing greater unhappiness in mid-life than younger and older people.

Emotional illiteracy – men tend to have a more negative view of talking therapies.

Socio-economic factors – unemployed people are 2-3 times more likely to die by suicide than those in work. Suicide rates also increase during economic recession.

 

What to look out for

According to Mental Health Charity Mind, many people will have suicidal thoughts at some point in their lifetime. Recognising them in yourself or someone you are close to isn’t always easy, but they suggest to look out for the following possible signs:

How you might think or feel:

  • hopeless, like there is no point in living
  • tearful and overwhelmed by negative thoughts
  • unbearable pain that you can't imagine ending
  • useless, not wanted or not needed by others
  • desperate, as if you have no other choice
  • like everyone would be better off without you
  • cut off from your body or physically numb
  • fascinated by death. 

What you may experience:

  • poor sleep, including waking up earlier than you want to
  • a change in appetite, weight gain or loss
  • no desire to take care of yourself, for example neglecting your physical appearance
  • wanting to avoid others
  • making a will or giving away possessions
  • struggling to communicate
  • self-loathing and low self-esteem
  • urges to self-harm

Prostate cancer

In the UK 1 in 8 men will develop prostate cancer – it’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK. It isn’t known exactly what causes prostate cancer and it can be hard to detect as there can be little to no symptoms.

Risk Factors

Age is the biggest risk factor with those over 50 being most likely to be affected. Risk increases further as you age more. According to Prostate Cancer UK, ‘The most common age for men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer is between 65 and 69 years. If you’re under 50, your risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer is very low, but it is possible.’

Genetics and family history can also have a big impact on risk. You are two and a half times more likely to get prostate cancer if your father or brother has been diagnosed with it, compared to a man who has no relatives with prostate cancer. If your mother or sister has had breast cancer, your risk of getting prostate cancer could also be higher.

Ethnicity can also affect your likelihood of getting prostate cancer. In the UK 1 in 4 black men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime compared to the overall rate of 1 in 8. Black men can also be more likely to get prostate cancer at a younger age.

What to look out for

In most cases, prostate cancer isn’t detectable and there aren’t any symptoms. According to Prostate Cancer Foundation, ‘The growing tumour does not push against anything to cause pain, so for many years the disease may be silent.’ This is why it is important to know the risk factors which might affect you so you can be screened if you are at a higher risk.

In some more rare cases, prostate cancer can cause symptoms though and according to Prostate Cancer UK you should contact your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • difficulty starting to urinate or emptying your bladder
  • a weak flow when you urinate
  • a feeling that your bladder hasn’t emptied properly
  • dribbling urine after you finish urinating
  • needing to urinate more often than usual, especially at night
  • a sudden need to urinate – you may sometimes leak urine before you get to the toilet.

Urinary symptoms don’t necessarily spell cancer and can be a common non-cancerous problem of an enlarged prostate or another health problem but symptoms should always be investigated by your doctor none-the-less.

Heart Disease

Although overall mortality rates for cardiovascular conditions or events has dropped drastically over the past 20 years, heart disease is still the leading cause of male death in the UK according to UK government statistics. Heart disease mortality is greater amongst men than women; 119,000 men have a heart attack each year, compared to 69,000 women.

Risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes

Warning signs to look out for are:

  • Chest pain
  • Feeling sick
  • Arm, jaw or back pain
  • Feeling sweaty
  • Extreme tiredness

There are a number of lifestyle changes which can have a big impact on your risk of heart disease:

  • Eat a healthy balanced diet, high in fruit and vegetables and low in salt and saturated fat
  • Be more physically active
  • Give up smoking if you smoke
  • Reduce alcohol consumption if you drink alcohol
  • Keep your blood pressure under control
  • Keep your diabetes under control if you have diabetes

Health Insurance can help with the treatment and prevention of  these three men's health concerns and is an excellent way to prioritise your health and be proactive about protecting it. If you would like to understand more about how Health Insurance works, have a read of our in-depth guide, or fill in the form below to get free expert advice from one of our helpful advisers.

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