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Introduction to Men’s Health

Introduction to Men’s Health

According to the World Health Organisation, men visit their general practice less often than their female counterparts and consistently report unmet healthcare needs.(1) In fact, recent figures suggest women aged between 20 and 40 years are twice as likely to go to their doctor’s or visit a pharmacy than men in this cohort.(2)

There are many possible explanations for this; perhaps some men fear receiving a bad diagnosis or are time-poor due to busy schedules. However, we also can’t ignore the elephant in the room: pervasive gender stereotypes. Generally speaking, health is socially constructed as more of a feminine concern.

Even now, there’s an unspoken rule that men should appear less fazed about their physical and emotional health to publicly maintain any  ‘real’ macho identity.(3) Of course, not all men subscribe to this idea. But work still needs to be done to dismantle the stigma. Because sidestepping health comes at a real cost.

The truth is implementing positive changes in the name of your wellbeing won’t ever result in a loss of ‘masculinity’. On the contrary, taking action to support your health actually demonstrates strength, responsibility, and conscientiousness. Gender politics aside, let’s dive in: here’s your ultimate guide to men’s health.

Address unhealthy lifestyle choices

According to the Men’s Health Forum, men are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours than women.(11) Researchers noted that – out of smoking, excessive alcohol use, poor diet and low levels of physical activity – men are more inclined to participate in a combination of three or four risky behaviours.(12) To support your overall health, you may need to look squarely at some of your lifestyle choices.

Stub out smoking

You shouldn’t be surprised to see smoking mentioned here. Smoking is one of the biggest causes of poor health and premature death in the UK. This habit increases your risk of developing more than fifty serious health conditions. (13) Giving up is never easy, but try to make every effort to stop in whatever way you can. For more guidance and support, you can call the NHS Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1044.

Take it easy on the tipples

Generally speaking, men tend to consume more alcohol than their female counterparts. But drinking too much can take a sizeable toll on your physical and emotional health. In an ideal world, try to have no more than one alcoholic drink a day. The NHS guidelines advise against drinking more than 14 units a week. And if you’re drinking habitually, try to spread your consumption over 3 or more days.

Watch your screen time

In the era of Netflix and social media, everything is bottomless. Tech companies have gone above and beyond to systematically remove stopping cues. We don’t have to do much to get more and more content. The same goes for playing video games: one round seamlessly rolls into the next. The endlessness of online experiences has short-circuited our ability to disconnect from technology. And this is a big part of what keeps us glued to our devices. That – and the fact many of us get a hit of dopamine (the ‘pleasure’ hormone) every time our phone pings.

Take a tech break

  • Monday: switch off notifications
  • Tuesday: unsubscribe from old emails
  • Wednesday: take emails off your phone
  • Thursday: have a device box for mealtimes
  • Friday: switch off from tech 90-minutes before bed
  • Saturday: 2 x device-free hours
  • Sunday: have a completely screen-free Sabbath

Be kind to your mind

Alongside the pressures of modern life, the societal expectations for men to be the ‘providers’ and ‘breadwinners’ – many of which still pervade today – may exacerbate stress. The stereotype of the browbeaten, overworked male executive indeed has a kernel of truth to it. Chronic stress is no laughing matter. A surge in stress hormones can affect everything from your sleep and libido to your energy levels and skin. Fortunately, help is at hand.

Prioritise stillness

For many of us, the pace of everyday life has made the concept of stillness feel well beyond our reach. We’re either tethered to our work goals, social commitments, or family responsibilities. And when we’re able to grab five-minutes by ourselves, we’re often tethered to our phones (heck, many of us even sleep with our devices!). But we all need to take respite from the demands of everyday life – our minds crave it.

Find solace

Make a commitment to practice stillness and solitude for at least 10-20 minutes daily. You don’t have to venture down the conventional meditation route (although we’d highly recommend it if you can). Instead, you may wish to try a few rounds of deep belly breathing, mindful cooking, or walking in nature. 

Laugh more

No, we’re not joking laughter truly is medicine for the soul. Not only does a roaring laugh release ‘feel good’ endorphins in your brain, but it also activates and relieves your stress response.(14) Belly laughing promotes circulation and muscle relaxation, too, which can help mitigate some of the physical symptoms of stress. Try to incorporate more laughter into your day: smile more, listen to comedy podcasts, read funny books, go to comedy nights, learn to laugh at yourself.
Using your diaphragm (a.k.a. your belly), breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, and breathe out for 10 seconds. Repeat until you feel relaxed.
 

Move daily

Physical activity is another excellent tool to support your emotional health and burn off excess stress. Regular movement enhances your wellbeing via the release of happy hormones, endorphins. Even two minutes of vigorous exercise can change your state of being and relieve tension. Next time you see red, get moving.
 

References

  1. Euro.who.int. 2020. Men’s Health. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.euro. who.int/en/health-topics/health-determinants/gender/mens-health
  2. Menshealthforum.org.uk. 2020. Key Data: Understanding Of Health And Access To Services. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.menshealthforum. org.uk/key-data-understanding-health-and-access-services
  3. Menshealthforum.org.uk. 2020. Key Data: Understanding Of Health And Access To Services. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.menshealthforum. org.uk/key-data-understanding-health-and-access-services
  4. Menshealthforum.org.uk. 2020. Key Data: Understanding Of Health And Access To Services. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/key-data-understanding-health-and-access-services
  5. Kingsfund.org.uk. 2020. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.kingsfund. org.uk/sites/default/files/field/field_publication_file/clustering-of-unhealthy-behaviours-over-time-aug-2012.pdf
  6. nhs.uk. 2020. What Are The Health Risks Of Smoking? [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/what-are-the-health-risks-of-smoking/
  7. Strean W. B. (2009). Laughter prescription. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, 55(10), 965–967.