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Bridging the Gap

Empowering men to prioritize health

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Stark gender differences exist in seeking out both physical and mental health care. Understanding how and why these gender differences exist and how professionals and policymakers can better identify those who are less likely to seek care will help them develop targeted strategies to encourage people to do so.

The implications of a 2016 Canadian study on this issue (published in the journal BMC Family Practice) revealed myriad factors that influence why men are less likely to seek medical help compared to women. It also suggests a greater variability in how individuals decide to seek help for mental health issues, which could be due to the stigma associated with mental health, especially among men.

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Why it matters

Putting health first is crucial for men, not only for their own well-being but also for the positive ripple effects it can have on those around them. When men prioritize their health, they set a foundation for a longer, more fulfilling life, reducing the risk of chronic diseases and improving their quality of life.

This proactive approach to health can lead to increased energy, better mental clarity, and a more positive outlook on life, which in turn enhances their interactions and relationships with family and friends.

Men who prioritize their health may become role models for healthy living within their communities and families, inspiring others to follow suit. This can lead to a culture of health and wellness that benefits everyone.

Children, in particular, look up to the adults in their lives, and when they see important male figures taking care of their health, they’re more likely to adopt those habits themselves, setting the stage for a healthier next generation.

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Prioritizing men’s health: A call to action

For men, the reluctance to seek health care, particularly for mental health issues, can have far-reaching consequences. Recognizing the factors that deter men from seeking help is the first step in breaking down these barriers.

By addressing these issues head-on, we can create a more inclusive health care system that encourages men to prioritize their health; however, the real challenge lies in translating this knowledge into actionable strategies that encourage men to prioritize their health.

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Physical health

Studies have shown a slightly greater inclination toward seeking help for physical health issues, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Encouraging regular physical checkups and making men aware of the critical health screenings available to them can save lives.

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Mental health

Gender disparities related to seeking out mental health care highlight the need for a cultural shift. It’s essential to normalize conversations about mental health among men and provide them with the resources and support systems to seek help without fear of judgment.

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Regular checkups

Identifying those who are reluctant to seek health care allows for targeted interventions. Health care practitioners can reach out to these individuals, offering information and support to encourage them to take that crucial step toward regular health checkups.

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Healthy relationships and work-life balance

By promoting healthy relationships and a balanced lifestyle, we can create environments that support mental and physical well-being, making it easier for men to seek help when needed.

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Improving eating habits and reflecting on unhealthy behaviours

Education about the importance of nutrition and the impact of unhealthy behaviours can motivate men to make changes that benefit their health in the long term.

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Supplements and overall health

While supplements can support health, the decision to use them should be informed by health care advice, emphasizing the importance of consulting health care practitioners. Critically, supplements should be used to complement healthy choices, rather than replace them.

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Encouragement for the journey ahead

Armed with this knowledge, the path forward involves breaking down the barriers that prevent men from seeking health care. It’s about creating a society where men feel supported and encouraged to take charge of their health, understanding that doing so benefits not just themselves but everyone around them.

Change won’t happen overnight, but with targeted policies, supportive communities, and a shift in societal attitudes, we can close the gap between men and women in seeking health care. Let’s use the insights from this study to champion a healthier future for all men, making health care access inclusive, understanding, and a priority for everyone.

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Take charge of your health

Get the message out there!

Encourage and champion good health practices among friends, family, and your social circles through positive role modelling and sharing valuable health information. Make a difference by giving back and supporting others in their journey to better health.

Plan to get checked 

Start making annual checkups a non-negotiable part of your calendar, just like any important anniversary or birthday. These visits can catch potential health issues early when they are most treatable and can provide you with valuable advice on maintaining or improving your health. Remember, prevention is better than cure, and taking this proactive step is a key component of prioritizing your health.

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Sad stats

An estimated 4,500 Canadian deaths each year are attributed to suicide—75 percent of those suicide deaths are men.

This article was originally published in the June 2024 issue of alive magazine.

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