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One man in five dies before the age of 65 – Week 18

One man in five dies before the age of 65

Readers of last week’s posts will have seen that this month is all about MEN. I’m focusing on the ways in which inequality badly affects men as well as women because to me equality is better for everyone.

It’s currently Men’s Health Week and there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to focus on the statistic that one man in five dies before the age of 65. *

Why is this important?

According to the ONS “life expectancy at birth in the UK did not improve in 2015 to 2017 and remained at 79.2 years for males and 82.9 years for females.” ** “Women outlive men everywhere in the world” but there are plenty of contributing factors that mean that this difference doesn’t have to be as dramatic as it is, including, as WHO outlines, the fact that “men access health care less than women [and] men are much more likely to die from preventable and treatable noncommunicable diseases and road traffic accidents.”

In a timely article in Balance this week the magazine covered many of the factors that contribute to men having poorer health and a shorter life expectancy. Here are just three of their examples: ^

  • x3 – men are three times as likely to become alcohol dependent than women
  • x2 – women aged 20-40 are twice as likely to go to a doctor as men
  • 77% – 77 per cent of men polled by research from the Priory have suffered with anxiety, stress or depression.

One especially grave statistic is that suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales. I’ll be focusing on that number in next week’s piece so please don’t think that I’m overlooking that fact. If you, or someone you know is having mental health difficulties or has talked about suicide or given you any other cause for concern then please check out any one of the following resources:

  • Call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit their website
  • Get Help Now with Rethink Mental Illness
  • Visit the Mind website

Research is starting to bear out the importance of relationships and social connection in ensuring good quality of life. This is another way in which the stigma around men’s mental health and pressures to conform affect men and lead to poor health outcomes.

This overarching difference in life expectancy is one of the many ways in which inequality affects men as well as women, which is why it continues to be an important fact to focus on and to continue to raise awareness about.

What can you do about it?

There are so many factors involved in this issue, contributing to a shorter life expectancy for men than women and meaning that one in five men will die before the age of 65. That makes this a complicated problem to tackle but also one where marginal gains will really pay off. Just chipping away at the causes using information from, for example, the Men’s Health Forum is a great place to start, whether that’s working on yourself or pointing someone else in the right direction. Here are some of the key numbers for men lifted directly from MHF (thank you!) and their Men’s Health Week section:

  • 37 – a waist size of 37 inches or above puts you at increased of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
  • 150 – men should aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week.
  • 5 – we should aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.
  • 14 – maximum 14 units of alcohol a week.
  • 10 – cigarette smokers die 10 years younger on average than non-smokers.
  • 120/80 – normal blood pressure.

It’s important to take a holistic approach to making changes, and considering the great benefits of exercise on mental health (just as one example) it can have an excellent snowball effect on wider problems, which is one of the many reasons that trying to tackle any of the above is a good place to start.

As to the wider and possibly more nebulous issue of defining what it is to be a man in 2019, trying to get comfortable with the ways things have shifted and to help friends and family do the same I’d recommend checking out The Book of Man, a resource I suggested in last week’s post too. Just looking at the numbers of men asking for more flexibility and better parental leave shows that so many men are out there looking for a better deal from society and we can all contribute to that.

Finally, I’ve heard Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive is an excellent read, and was covered in the recent Read and Be Well post from The Book of Man concerning men’s mental health .


* Men’s Health Forum

** Office for National Statistics National life tables, UK: 2015 to 2017

*** World Health Organization Uneven access to health services drives life expectancy gaps: WHO 2 April 2019

^ Balance It’s Good to Talk June 2019

Bridget K. Gorman, PhD and Jen’nan Ghazal Read, PhD in Medscape Why Men Die Younger than Women 2007