Men’s Health 101: Common Conditions and Ways to Promote Men’s Health

Did you know men are at higher risk for many serious diseases, compared to women? Read more to learn about things you can do to improve Men's Health.

by Emma Lennon

Men make up just under half (49%) of Australia’s population, with around 12.4 million men living in Australia in 2018. Most men in Australia live in a major city and are of working age (with 36.4 years as the national median age), however as the overall population ages, more men are now within older age groups. Overall, men in Australia lead healthy lives, with a life expectancy higher than in many other countries. On average, Australian men live to 80.4 years, enjoying the eighth highest male life expectancy according to international data.

However, men do face unique challenges to health and wellbeing in Australia. Men in Australia are dying earlier than their female counterparts, with a greater proportion of those deaths occurring from preventable causes. In response to this, the Australian government has released a National Men’s Health Strategy 2020–2030 to identify and address the causes of ill health and premature death among men. Read on to find out more about men’s health, the drivers behind poor health outcomes for men, and what you can do to protect your own health or that of the men in your life.

Men’s Health in Australia

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Outcomes for men’s health have improved dramatically in Australia over the recent decades. Men born between 2015 and 2017 are predicted to live an average of 33 years longer than men born between 1881 and 1890. Concerningly, men of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds have a life expectancy of around 8.6 years shorter than non-Indigenous males. Addressing the barriers to good health and long life for Indigenous men in Australia will be of crucial importance to address these inequities moving forward.

Whilst overall health and mortality rates are improving for both sexes, a gender gap in health outcomes is emerging in the data. Men are expected to live an average of 4.2 years less than women and have a shorter Health Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE). HALE is an indicator of healthy years lived, which is calculated by subtracting the time spent dealing with health issues that reduce the quality of life. These statistics indicate that more work is required to improve the health of Australian men and address the barriers to long lives free of disease.

Health Concerns for Men in Australia

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Men in Australia face specific barriers to health and wellbeing. The Australian male population is ageing, leading to increased rates of some conditions that become more likely in later life. 

Australian men experience higher rates of obesity, diabetes, hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose), sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and mental health issues than Australian women. The driving factors between disease and mortality among men differ with age and background. 

Older men have a greater risk of coronary heart disease, dementia and falls. Younger men have an elevated risk of mental ill-health and death from preventable causes such as suicide and accidents.

Social disadvantage plays a significant role in the health outcomes of men. Rates of poverty, homelessness, incarceration and unemployment were all higher among men than women in 2015-16. These complex social factors all contribute to the overall lower health status of Australian men compared to women.

Specific groups of Australian men are at a greater risk for certain diseases and premature death. These groups include:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men
  • Migrant men
  • Men who live in rural and remote areas of Australia
  • Socioeconomically disadvantaged men
  • Men with disabilities
  • Incarcerated men
  • Non-heterosexual men
  • Transgender individuals
  • Intersex individuals.

To improve these statistics and achieve the National Men’s Health Strategy’s goal that every man and boy in Australia is supported to live a long, fulfilling and healthy life, we need to address a range of complex social, political, economic and lifestyle factors. We also need to better understand the specific health conditions that are affecting Australian men, and support men to take better care of their health and wellbeing.

Leading Causes of Premature Death for Australian Men

Recent data from the 2020 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) highlighted the leading causes of premature death for Australian men. These conditions also cause significant ill-health and reduced quality of life.

Top Conditions Affecting Men’s Health in Australia

  • Ischaemic Heart Disease

  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Trachea and Lung Cancer

  • Cerebrovascular diseases (e.g. stroke, vertebral stenosis and aneurysm)

  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases (including emphysema, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Prostate cancer

  • Colon and rectal cancer

  • Diabetes

  • Leukaemia and other blood and lymph cancers

  • Suicide

  • Anxiety

Leading chronic health conditions affecting men’s health in Australia

In addition to premature death, there are common chronic health conditions that reduce the quality of health and wellbeing for Australian men. Almost half (46%) of males in Australia are estimated to have one or more of the following 10 chronic health conditions.

Top Chronic Health Conditions in Australia

  • Mental Health and Behavioural Issues

  • Back Pain and Back Problems

  • Arthritis

  • Asthma

  • Diabetes

  • Heart, Stroke and Vascular Disease

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

  • Cancer

  • Osteoporosis

  • Chronic Kidney Disease

Lifestyle Risk Factors Affecting the Health of Australian Men

Some of the causes of men’s ill-health and premature death are sex-related, meaning they are due to biological differences between men and women. However, many others are due to socioeconomic and lifestyle factors. Diseases caused by lifestyle risk factors can be preventable with certain behavioural changes.

9 Leading Risk Factors for Men’s Health in Australia

1. Insufficient Physical Activity

Around half of Australian men do not meet the recommended guidelines for aerobic physical activity. Only around 17% of Australian men were sufficiently physically active, including sufficient muscle-strengthening activities. Physical inactivity is a risk factor for many cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health conditions.

2. Low Fruit and Vegetable Intake

Eating a nutritious, varied diet rich in fruit and vegetables is an important protective factor for many diseases. Less than half of Australian men consumed enough fruit each day. Around 4% consumed enough vegetables daily, and only 3% met the guidelines for both fruit and vegetable consumption. 

3. Consuming Sugar-Sweetened and Diet Drinks

Sweetened and diet beverages are a ‘discretionary’ food which can increase your risk of some health conditions. Around 12% of men in Australia consumed sugar-sweetened drinks daily, and 5.5% drank diet drinks daily.

4. Overweight and Obesity

Excess weight is a risk factor for many leading causes of ill health in Australia, including cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes and hypertension. 75% of Australian men fall into the overweight or obese category.

5. Tobacco Use

Smoking tobacco is the leading preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia. Approximately one in six Australian men still smoke tobacco daily.

6. Alcohol Consumption

Chronic overuse of alcohol is a risk factor for conditions like liver and heart disease. Alcohol use is also linked to injury and death from accidents, violence and homicide. Half of all Australian men exceed the recommended guidelines for safe alcohol use.

7. Occupational Health Risks

93% of Australians killed at work are men. These rates are particularly high for men working in road transport, agriculture, forestry and fishing and manufacturing.

8. Violence

More than 2 in 5 men have experienced physical, emotional or sexual violence since the age of 15.

9. Lower Health Service Utilisation

Men access fewer Medicare and primary health services.

Understanding the drivers and risk factors contributing to men’s health issues can help us support the men in our lives to take better care of their health and wellbeing. Improving these risk factors will lead to healthier, longer lives for men in Australia.

10 Key Actions to Improve Men’s Health in Australia

Some of the best actions every man in Australia can take to protect and improve their health are:

1. Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking is one of the best changes you can make for your physical well-being, your mental health and your family. Tobacco smoke increases your risk of a range of health conditions and can increase your risk of dying earlier. Quitting smoking also protects your loved ones from the risks of second-hand smoke and sets a good example for health-promoting behaviours. As an added bonus, by quitting smoking you could save around $9000 per year which you can then spend on the things you enjoy that are good for you and your loved ones. To get free assistance to quit or reduce smoking, contact Quitline on 13 78 48.

2. Stop or Reduce Drinking Alcohol

Alcohol misuse puts you at an increased risk of many health complications. People who reduce or quit drinking often experience major health benefits such as improved sleep, weight loss, more energy, greater overall health, mental clarity and better skin. If you want to reduce your drinking, contact your general practitioner for support and resources to make it as easy and stress-free as possible.

3. Consume More Fruits and Vegetables

Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables has a range of health benefits and can protect you from certain illnesses. There is no need to undergo a drastic diet or miss out on the foods you love, as long as you focus on a balanced, wholesome diet that includes the key food groups for health as recommended by the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.

4. Engage in Regular Aerobic and Muscle-Strengthening Activity

Staying physically active is a great way to boost your physical and mental health. Aerobic activity such as walking, jogging, swimming or callisthenics is great for your cardiovascular health and may help you maintain a healthy weight. Engaging in resistance-based exercise helps to maintain muscle mass and strong bones to protect you from falls and accidents.

5. Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule

Sleep is an often neglected but important aspect of your health and wellbeing. Most adults need around 8 hours of sleep to allow the proper functioning of their mind and body. Adequate sleep supports healthy immune function, cardiovascular health and appetite control. It also improves mental focus and clarity. If you struggle to get enough sleep, several strategies can help you, such as sleep hygiene practices and controlling your screen time.

6. Manage Stress and Anxiety

The well-being of your mind and body are closely related. If left untreated, stress and anxiety can lead to mental and physical health problems such as depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

7. Consume Less Sugar- And Artificially-Sweetened Drinks

High consumption of sugary drinks increases your risk of health issues such as dental decay, high blood sugar, diabetes and obesity. Sugary drinks provide a lot of energy in the form of kilojoules without providing a sense of satiety (fullness) or nutrients. Swapping sugary or diet drinks for water can help protect your health.

8. Practice Safe Sex

Using protection when engaging in sexual intercourse is an important way of protecting you and your sexual partners from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms are a cheap and accessible form of safe sex practice that is effective at reducing the risk of transmission. Sexually active people should also undergo regular STI screening to identify and treat any issues that arise.

9. Get Regular Health Check-UPS

Don’t wait until your health deteriorates or your symptoms are unmanageable before going to the doctor. Seek medical assistance as soon as you notice any changes to your health, and get regular check-ups even if you feel well. Many health conditions have a greater chance of recovery and survival when found early.

10. Engage in Safe Work Practices

Everybody deserves to be safe at work. Unfortunately, men are at a greater risk of being injured or killed at work. Always follow any safety procedures when working, and if you are unsure of your rights and responsibilities, ask your supervisor, union or contact WorkSafe.

How Homage Can Support Men’s Health

Accessing high-quality health care is crucial to your long term wellbeing. At Homage, our team of dedicated, caring professionals are ready to help you maintain your health, or manage a preexisting condition. Our experienced and qualified Care Pros can assist you to improve your health, manage or recover from an illness or injury, or simply offer support in your daily life so you have more time to focus on your wellbeing. Our services include Home Personal Care (such as support with meals or showering), Home Nursing Care for simple and complex conditions and procedures, and social support and community access. We can even help you to attend medical appointments or run errands such as shopping or housekeeping. 

We know how busy life can get, but nothing is more important than your well-being. Without your health, you may become unable to perform your usual activities at home or work. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength and courage, so get in touch with our Care Advisors to find out how we can support you today.


References
  1. Australian Government Department of Health. (2021, May 27). National Men’s Health Strategy 2020–2030. Retrieved June 9, 2022, from https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/national-mens-health-strategy-2020-2030 
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019a, December 10). The health of Australia’s males. Retrieved June 9, 2022, from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/men-women/male-health/contents/how-healthy 
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019b, December 10). The health of Australia’s males, Lifestyle and risk factors. Retrieved June 10, 2022, from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/men-women/male-health/contents/lifestyle-and-risk-factors 
  4. Australian Men’s Health Forum. (n.d.). Fact Sheets. Retrieved June 9, 2022, from https://www.amhf.org.au/fact-sheets 
  5. Australian Men’s Health Forum. (2022). New data: 10 surprising facts about men’s health in Australia. Retrieved June 9, 2022, from https://www.amhf.org.au/new_data_10_surprising_facts_about_men_s_health_in_australia#:%7E:text=More%20than%206%20out%20of,male%20deaths%20are%20potentially%20avoidable
  6. Better Health Channel. (2018). Safe sex. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/safe-sex 
  7. Better Health Channel. (2022, June 3). Men’s health. Retrieved June 9, 2022, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/mens-health 
  8. Eat For Health. (2017, May 1). Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-guide-healthy-eating 
  9. Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education. (2022, June 3). Tips and tools for cutting back. https://fare.org.au/resources/tips-and-tools/ 
  10. healthdirect. (2020). Sleep. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/sleep#:%7E:text=In%20short%2C%20you%20need%20sleep,promotes%20attention%2C%20memory%20and%20learning
  11. Mayo Clinic. (2021, March 24). Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987?reDate=10062022 
  12. Quit Victoria. (n.d.). 9 things you’ll gain from quitting. Retrieved June 10, 2022, from https://www.quit.org.au/articles/9-things-youll-gain-quitting/ 
  13. Rethink Sugary Drink. (n.d.). Facts about sugary drinks. https://www.rethinksugarydrink.org.au/facts
About the Writer
Emma Lennon
Emma is a public health professional who is passionate about creating health content that informs and empowers. When she is not writing, you can find her at the gym or curled up on the couch with her rescue greyhounds.
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