Whether you are male or female (gender) is a major factor in how long you live and the types of diseases that may affect you. It is important to recognise that our health system needs to be responsive to the diversity which exists in Australian society - a one size fits all approach will not meet the needs of all people and that is why services need to consider approaches which take into consideration the specific needs of men and women.
There are biological, social, psychological and economic factors which all impact on the level of health that men experience.
Some examples include:
- Biological - some diseases such as prostate and testicular cancer only affect males.
- Social - Men may suffer increased risk of depression due to isolation stemming from having smaller social networks than women. For Aboriginal men disempowerment and loss of culture have been identified as critical social factors underlying poor health.
- Psychological - Men display high risk taking behaviours which result in higher rates of injury and death due to such things as motor vehicle accidents and interpersonal violence.
- Economic - Men undertake high risk occupations in such industries as mining, construction and manufacturing which result in high rates of injury and occupational diseases.
Overall, men suffer higher rates than women of a range of diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and various non-gender specific cancers. Health surveys also show that men display poorer health promoting behaviours than women across most age groups e.g. higher smoking, excessive alcohol and obesity rates rates and lower levels of physical activity and healthy eating. Of particular concern are the high rates of injury, suicide and interpersonal violence which impact on the lives of men and their families.
Men who enjoy good, physical and mental health are well-placed to support the functioning of society through positive contributions in their personal relationships, communities and at work.
It is for these reasons that there has been an increased emphasis on male health over the past few years. In 2010, the Commonwealth government released the first National Male Health Policy and in 2011 the NT Department of Health established the Men's Health Strategy Unit.
Improving men's health requires an emphasis on prevention which takes into consideration the person's age group as the diseases, disabilities and causes of death change according to life stage.