Werner J. Sattmann-Frese, Senior Learning Facilitator, Counselling offers his expert opinion on optimal men’s health.
I have worked in the industry for over 34 years, first as a psychotherapist in private practice, then as a supervising psychotherapist and training students in psychotherapy, psychosomatic medicine, and holistic bodywork.
What we view as men’s health widely depends on who is using the term and for which purpose it is used. On Men’s Health we read about topics such as how protein snacks can get us through the workday, whether or not apple cider can help lose weight, and why men on Instagram are obsessed with baking sourdough bread. Somewhat closer to home, the Australian Men’s Health Magazine, targeting men between 25 and 44 years of age, focuses on topics such as career, fatherhood, style, nutrition, motoring, and, of course, health. We can also read about suggestions on how to double our wages.
The other side of men’s health
Obviously, all of these topics are relevant for men’s wellbeing as much as the choice of topics, as well as the target age, probably first and foremost reflect the necessity to attract as many readers as possible. But what do we really learn about the other side of men’s health? About their struggles in an ever more casualised workforce in which men (as well women) move from gig to gig in participating what is now called the gig economy, a kind of work arrangement in which workers have a high level of flexibility but also carry most risks and are not covered by labour laws.
The mortality rate of men
From infancy through to old age women are healthier than men except with one form of illness – Alzheimer disease, which ironically many men do not develop as much because they do not live long enough. While the gap is closing, men die on average five years before their wives. On a BBC website, we read about a study undertaken by the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK) that found that many men are reluctant to join clubs for older people and therefore let their social life shrink in the not very likely event that men survive their partners .
80% of all suicides in Australia are committed by men
An important men’s health topic is the dismal state of many men’s mental health when compared with women’s health. Close to 80% of all suicides in Australia are committed by men, and this form of death is now the number one killer of men under 44 . One key reason is that many men are still struggling with identifying and talking about the so-called negative emotions and stress. Overall, men usually have fewer meaningful connections and still present the stoic attitude of soldiering on.
“Close to 80% of all suicides in Australia are committed by men, and this form of death is now the number one killer of men under 44. One key reason is that many men are still struggling with identifying and talking about negative emotions and stress.”
Men are socialised to ‘let go and get over it’, which only increases feelings of loneliness and emotional anguish. Additionally, most men refuse to seek counselling.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that an estimated one in four newly diagnosed men with erectile dysfunction (ED) is now under the age of 40 . This condition not long ago only affected men over 50, and considering that many men are too embarrassed to seek medical help may mean that there is a growing epidemic out there. Statistically, 22% of Australian men experience regular sexual frustration with 6% of them suffering from constant ED.
A significant percentage of Australian men also have high-risk factors for heart diseases or certain forms of death. For example, 42% of Australian men over 18 are overweight, and in 2017 four out of ten men (40%) died of avoidable alcohol-related cancer. The number of alcohol-related hospitalisations and deaths of men and women has increased by a staggering 62% from 2000 to 2010, with the number of hospitalisations for men almost twice the rate to one of the women (2010: 101,425 for men and 55,707 for women) .
The importance of changing stereotypes
These few examples indicate that men’s health is in this country severely compromised, and if we carefully consider the above examples we will see that many health problems could indeed be avoided through lifestyle changes, more sustainable ways of coping with stress, and through a better life-work balance. While the societal pressures on men have been increasing, there has also been an increase in inexpensive opportunities such as working out, martial arts, a large range of sports activities, as well as meditation. An increasing number of men have been joining men’s sheds that have emerged in many communities around us. It surely is a positive sign that an increasing number of men from all walks of life, including CEOs and Senior Managers of corporate companies, now attend counselling and psychotherapy as well as yoga and other mindfulness courses and workshops.
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