NOTE by the editor: The Australian recently ran the article “Free checks to tempt men to seek health help ” in which is described an effort by the Australian government to encourage men to seek preventive health services. That’s progress, a good thing, something that America should emulate. Aussie Ian Wilson, a long term NCFM member, sent the newspaper the following additional information:
For twenty five years now we have been dutifully feed media opinion pieces and Government reports (Men expected to die five years earlier than women, Aussie [Government] study indicates: The Australian 14/06/11) that tell us that men don’t care about their own health. Each of these tomes of wisdom have told us that men could live as long as women if they only they behaved like women and took responsibility for their own health.
The question is, why have reports like this been regularly coming out over the last 25 years and yet there has been so little change in the life expectancy differences between men and women?
Contrary to the “expert” opinion presented in these reports, 60 – 70 % of the difference in life expectancy between men and women can be explained by men’s greater inherent susceptibility to heart disease. On average, men die from ischemic heart disease (i.e. mostly heart attacks) five to seven years earlier than women. Consequently, the slight decrease in life expectancy between the sexes from seven to five years over the last 30 to 40 years, is almost completely explained by large numbers of men giving up smoking. [Ironically, this has been achieved by men given up smoking at much higher rates than women because, contrary to stereotypes, men are just as good at taking up responsibility for their own health as women]
Also contrary to “expert” opinion, very little of the difference in life
expectancy ( < 15 %) can be explained by the higher cancer death rates of men compared to women. This is due to the fact that on average, men die from cancer at the same age as women.
The only thing that these Government reports even vaguely get right is the fact that they highlight the much higher rates that young men die from accidents and violence. This accounts for ~ 15 % of the difference in life expectancy between the sexes. Yet, none of these reports even mention the underlying reason for the large difference in death rates between the sexes from accidents and violence,because it might uncover the elephant in the room. What is this hidden truth, you might say. It is our shared (and deeply held) belief that men’s lives are somehow of less value and more expendable than those of women’s.
Until we confront, the real reasons for the difference in life expectancy between men and women, we will continue to read Government reports that mouth empty platitudes and do little to change the difference in life expectancy between the sexes.