Today is the first day of Men’s Health Week (Te Wiki Hauora Tāne). Running from 14 – 20 June, Men’s Health Week is part of a global health awareness campaign marked in the US, Europe and Australasia. The week focuses on the health issues all men face and raises awareness of steps men can take to help address these.
What is the point of Men’s Health Week?
The purpose of Men’s Health Week, according to the campaign’s director’s Tim Greene and Mark Sainsbury, is to cause men to think. “To start with the small steps that enable them to turn their health issues around. One week a year this is what we focus on, but men’s health is an issue for us all year round.”
The fact is that men are statistically at a disadvantage when it comes to health outcomes. A boy born today will live nearly four years less than a girl born in the room next door. He will be over 20% more likely to die of a heart attack than the girl, and almost 30% more likely to get diabetes. Worse, he is three times more likely to die by suicide or in a motor car crash.
What are some of the major health issues facing men?
Heart disease is the biggest killer in New Zealand, and accounts for one third of all deaths each year. Latest research shows that men are at greater risk of stroke than women, and that more than 170,000 Kiwis live with heart disease every day.
Diabetes is New Zealand’s fastest-growing health crisis; more than 40 people a day are diagnosed with the disease. Ministry of Health figures show there are over 240,000 people in New Zealand who have been diagnosed with diabetes (mostly Type 2), with a further 100,000 estimated to have it without yet being diagnosed.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among New Zealand men. Around 1 in 10 New Zealand men will develop prostate cancer at some stage in their lifetime – and the incidence is increasing. Each year over Kiwi 3000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer (80% of diagnoses are for men aged 60 or over) and approximately 600 men die from it.
While mental health is something that men are getting better at talking about, depression and anxiety still afflict many men in New Zealand. In fact, 1 in 8 New Zealand men will experience serious depression during their lifetime. Unfortunately, in New Zealand the suicide rate for men is three times that of women.
So what should we do during Men’s Health Week?
Men’s Health Week is the perfect time to start thinking about the men in your life and to get them talking about their health concerns.
As Tim Greene and Mark Sainsbury explain: “We owe it to the ones we love and who love us. And it’s not hard – small steps can really make a big difference. Little changes can and do lead to big results. Everyone can do a little something to make their lot better.”
A good place to start is by taking the short survey on the Men’s Health Week website to find out your ‘health score’ and then take steps to decrease your score. Take the survey here: https://www.menshealthweek.co.nz/mens-health-survey/
If you need a push, you can watch several high-profile kiwis talking about their own health journeys on the Men’s Health Trust website. It also has a list of support groups in New Zealand created specifically for men; see the full list here.