If you hadn't noticed it's Movember and Men's Health is in the spotlight. In particular Mental Health, Prostate Cancer and Testicular Cancer. Three aspects of Men's Health that contribute significantly to men's mortality. The saddest part of this statistic is that they are, to a great extent, preventable causes of death with early intervention.
In the course of my career I have taken many a phone call from the wife or partner of a man to make a booking on their behalf. Often unbeknownst to the man! This gives a small insight into men's health behaviour that is quite curious. Men will often avoid seeking attention for health related issues.
Why don't men ask for health help?
A study from the International Journal of Consumer Behaviours (1) found some interesting reasons why men do not seek health care assistance when they clearly should. These were broken down into broad themes that included:
1. Health-seeking behaviour was seen as a more female trait and not one associated with male self-reliance (I think this might be code for "I'm too scared to find out what's wrong with me")
2. Expressions of underlying fear and fatalism (at least they're being honest!)
3. Feelings of disconnection from health providers (talking about how I feel with a stranger is just not cool)
There is no good age to be a man
At the pointy end, the life expectancy of a man is on average 4.5 years less than a woman.
Perhaps more alarming, across the lifespan, just being a man means you're more likely to die than a woman. And that's in all major age groups! This is in part due to men being biologically driven to partake in more risky behaviour (with sometimes devastating consequences). However the stark difference across the lifespan points more directly at men's lack of attention to detail in maintaining their own health and well-being (2).
Health behaviour change and the time it takes
One of the major benefits of seeing an osteopath at Fairfield Osteopathic Clinic is the time we take with our patients. An initial consultation is usually around one hour and all subsequent consults are around 30mins. There is always opportunity to get to know the patient in front of us. Of course we'll take a detailed medical history and perform the appropriate physical examination. But more than that it is chatting to the patient about their life, family, work, hobbies, exercise routine, friendships - all the stuff that makes them who they are. Obviously this doesn't all happen in one consultation, it will often take a while to build a therapeutic relationship with a patient and trust is not something that can be afforded lightly. Often this chat can reveal something about them that needs a little more attention. This might work a little better with men who are more reserved about revealing too much about their health history.
So a shout out to the men out there. Don't put that appointment off with the osteopath because you think that it's not "manly" to see someone about your aches and pains. This goes double for those things that you should see the GP about e.g. a spot that has changed on your skin, a lump that has developed somewhere it shouldn't, or you just aren't feeling your "manly" self.
Taking ownership of your health
Influencing health behaviour's is usually a pretty subtle science, even as a health professional. In recent times initiatives like Movember have done terrific work in highlighting the need for men to take ownership of their health. Likewise the RUOK group have done great work in clearing the lines of communication to help men (and women) open up about struggles with mental health. Always keep in mind that your health professional is a confidential source for anyone to talk about their health problems. As osteopaths we always are aware of our professional boundaries and scope of practice and will refer you on as necessary.
(1) Buckley, Joan, and Seamus Ó Tuama. "‘I send the wife to the doctor’–Men's behaviour as health consumers." International Journal of Consumer Studies34.5 (2010): 587-595.