June 13-19 is Men’s Health Week. The focus of men’s health week 2022 is creating healthy environments for boys and men.
This week we are discussing some of the health problems encountered by boys and men of all different ages.
***Trigger warning - this article discusses suicide. If it isn’t the right time for you to read this content go back now .***
When men reach the age of 20, they should start to become more responsible for their long-term well-being by making positive choices for their health and addressing concerns as soon as possible.
Our Ballarat Naturopaths are qualified in treating or ‘co-treating’ many male health conditions, but they report seeing considerably fewer male patients than females. This echoes the findings of Healthy Male which suggests men have at least five barriers when it comes to addressing their health:
Denial – hoping a health concern isn’t an issue
Delayed information seeking – taking too long to have a health concern addressed
Masculine social construct – thinking that it is weak to ask for help
Nerves or embarrassment – finding it difficult to talk about health concerns
Trust – not being sure what health information is trustworthy
Some alarming concerns about men’s health include
Men are more likely to die from heart disease at earlier ages
Men are significantly more at risk of dying from liver disease
80% of spinal cord injuries occur in young men
70% of developmental and learning disabilities affect boys
Men have an increased risk of dying from diabetes
Men can decrease their risk of health concerns later in life, by focussing on their health in their 20s.
Practice safe sex:
Adults in their early 20s represent a significant number of people contracting STIs such as human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Left untreated these diseases can cause infertility, urethral disease, and an increased risk of some cancers.
In many cases, men can contract and carry STIs but remain asymptomatic. However, STIs can lead to disease later in life or be passed onto female partners who can become significantly unwell (most concerningly with cervical cancer, from HPV) as a result of the transmitted disease.
Be sun smart:
Men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer than females. Men have a 1 in 14 chance of being diagnosed with melanoma and a 1 in 84 chance of it being fatal.
These alarming statistics could be because men are less vigilant about applying sun protection, less likely to go for skin-cancer check-ups, and/or spend more time outdoors.
Your 20s are a great time to enjoy musical festivals, outdoor parties, water sports and get-togethers, but it should also be a time to keep up good sun-smart habits such as:
Applying 50+ sunscreen regularly
Wearing protective clothing, such as a broad-brim hat, long sleeves and pants
Seeking out shade on high UV days
Wearing Australian standard sunglasses when outdoors
Reduce the booze:
In Australia, males ages between 18 and 24 are significantly more likely to engage in moderate-to- high risk alcohol.
Binge drinking carries more health complications than a hangover. Binge drinking (6 or more drinks in one sitting for men, 4 or more in one sitting for women) can lead to concentration and memory problems, brain damage, mental health problems, alcohol dependency, diabetes and weight gain, heart problems, liver damage, cancer and fertility issues.
To make this more concerning, the male brain isn’t fully formed until about the age of 25. The last thing to form in the brain is the prefrontal cortex; the part of the brain that controls impulse inhibition, behaviors, social interaction, moral judgement, decision making and self control. Adding moderate to high-risk alcohol to an unformed brain, could be the reason why men in their early 20s are more likely to be involved in road trauma accidents, drowning, falls, injuries from violence and sustain spinal cord injuries.
Get mental-health help, early
Sadly 1 in 8 men will experience depression and one 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety. While men are less likely to experience anxiety and depression than women, they are less likely to seek help; which increases the risk of these mental health conditions going unrecognised and untreated.
On average 7 Australian men take their own life every day. Suidice is one of the highest causes of death for men aged 15-24 and 25-34.
When identified early, some mild mental health conditions can be managed with exercise and a balanced diet, adequate sleep, spending time with family and friends, reducing stress and spending time doing enjoyable activities. Herbs such as St Johns Wart can also be useful in treating mild depression.
Don’t ignore the signs of depression and anxiety. Seek help from your GP if you start feeling irritable, sad or down more often or for longer periods of time, being less interested in activities you usually enjoy, feeling more tired than usual, experiencing unexplained weight gain or loss; or feeling so panicked or worried that you have difficulty sleeping or thinking about other things. Also, be sure to check in on your mates, who might be exhibiting signs of mental health decline and normalise having open discussions about emotions and wellbeing.
Your 20s should be a time of fun, adventure and personal growth. But it shouldn’t be a time when your health (short or long term) is jeopardised.
If you have any health concerns, see your GP, naturopath or refer some of the following services for assistance.