Male Mortality: Why Men Die Earlier Than Women
Historically, women have consistently lived longer than their male counterparts. In 2018, the average life expectancy was 76.2 years for men and 81.2 years for women. Some causes for this disparity include behavior, genetics and lack of preventive care. Here are the largest contributing factors to male mortality:
- Heart Disease: In the U.S., the leading cause of death for both men and women is heart disease. Yet, men tend to develop it earlier in life and are 50% more likely to die from it. This can be due to excessive smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as stress, high blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Higher Suicide Rates: Due to stigma surrounding treatment, mental health issues continue to disproportionately affect the male population. Men die by suicide three times more often than women. In fact, white men accounted for nearly 70% of suicide-related deaths in 2018.
- Infrequent Doctor’s Visits: Men are less likely to attend routine doctor’s visits to receive recommended health screenings. Some subscribe to old-fashioned beliefs that enforce self-sufficiency and denounce social support. Many are also conditioned to be dismissive of any physical or emotional pain.
- Occupational Hazards: Men are 10 times more likely than women to be killed at work. Of the top 25 most dangerous jobs in the U.S., men overwhelmingly dominate each field. These positions include firefighters, construction laborers, machine operators, maintenance and repair workers.
- Poor Diet and Exercise: A nutrient-rich diet and regular exercise is crucial to maintaining optimal health. Both have been proven to reduce the risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Yet, men are 50% less likely than women to maintain a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables.
How can men add years to their life?
Actively monitoring one’s health can stop serious problems before they begin. It’s important to practice healthy habits and take advantage of preventive care. Start by implementing the following changes:
- Destigmatize Mental Health: Men should feel empowered to take control of their mental health. The first step is reducing the stigma associated with asking for help for conditions like depression and anxiety. That means acknowledging the problem and educating themselves on causes and treatment options.
- Eat Better and Move More: Aim for a portion-controlled diet consisting of lean protein, whole grains, heart-healthy fats, fruits and vegetables. Also, make physical activity a priority. Adult males should engage in moderate movement, such as brisk walking for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, unless a doctor recommends otherwise
- Regular Doctor’s Visits: A primary care physician is integral to any health care regimen. A doctor can provide professional guidance and preventive care in the form of health screenings and in some cases, medication. Men should talk to their physician to learn about early detection of chronic conditions such as depression, diabetes and high blood pressure.
The timeline for health screenings and individual coverage can vary by insurance plan. In certain cases, exceptions may be made for those who are at a higher risk for specific diseases. Check your coverage to determine what wellness exams are readily available.
About the Author: Dr. S. George Kipa, MD, is deputy chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
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Photo credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz