June is a great time to think about men’s health. With Father’s Day celebrated this month, men are already in the spotlight!   Men’s health not only can affect men as individuals, but also can impact the women, children, families, and loved ones that are part of their lives. Because men face unique health challenges and are at higher risk for serious diseases, supporting them and encouraging them to take good care of their health is a great move by the women in their lives. One of my favorite quotes from author, inspirational speaker, and blogger Mandy Hale is “To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful, or perfect. You just have to care.”   Whether it’s your significant other, dad, brother, son, or anyone else of the male persuasion, a little caring can go a long way!

Change Isn’t Always Easy – Scrubbing the Toilet More Appealing than Seeing the Doctor?

As a health and wellness coach and as a human being, I know that change isn’t always easy. And that we can only change ourselves, not someone else.   But what do we do when someone we care about isn’t really that vested in good health, particularly the men in our lives?  The Cleveland Clinic (2018) conducted as part of its third annual MENtion it campaign, which aims to address the fact that men often do not “MENtion” health issues or take steps to prevent them, two online surveys among approximately 2,000 U.S. men and women who live with a male significant other/spouse and were 18 years or older.  The study found:

83 percent of women said that they encourage their spouse/significant other to get their health checked once a year, however, only 30 percent of men believe that they don’t need to go because they are “healthy.”

In the clinic’s (Cleveland Clinic, 2019) fourth annual campaign, it found that:

72 percent of men would rather do household chores, like cleaning the bathroom or mowing the lawn, than go to the doctor and that even for the men who take their health more seriously, they aren’t always forthcoming with the doctor with 20 percent of men admitting they have not been completely honest with their doctor before.

The facts, however, don’t always point favorably towards good health and men may do better to go see the doctor and save the lawn care and indoor cleaning for later.

Men’s Health Challenges and Impact on Family and Loved Ones

According to the Men’s Health Network (n.d.), men face unique challenges that contribute to their shorter life expectancy and higher mortality rates and die at higher rates for nine of the top ten causes of death which include cancer, diabetes, suicide, accidents, and diseases of the heart, kidney, and liver.  Harvard (n.d.) reports that men are more likely to drink alcohol and use tobacco, make risky choices, and not see a doctor for regular checkups (Harvard, n.d.).      

Men’s health can significantly impact their family and loved ones in various ways (OpenAI, 2024):

  1. Physical Well-being: A man’s physical health directly affects his ability to participate in family activities and in those with loved ones. If he’s dealing with chronic illnesses or physical limitations due to poor health, it can hinder his involvement in events, such as outings, sports, or even simple activities like playing with children.
  2. Emotional Support: Men often play a crucial role in providing emotional support and stability within the family and their social circles. Mental health issues like depression or anxiety can affect their ability to fulfill this role effectively, impacting not only their own well-being but also the emotional health of their family members and loved ones.
  3. Financial Stability: Men are typically seen as providers in many cultures, and their ability to work and earn income is crucial for the financial stability of the family. Poor health, whether physical or mental, can lead to decreased productivity, increased medical expenses, or even loss of employment, all of which can strain the family’s financial resources.
  4. Role Modeling: Fathers often serve as role models for their children, teaching them about health habits through their own behaviors. If a father neglects his health by, for example, not exercising regularly or maintaining a balanced diet, it can set a negative example for the children, potentially leading to poor health habits later in life.
  5. Caregiving Responsibilities: In many families, men are also involved in caregiving responsibilities, whether for children, elderly parents, or other family members. Poor health can limit their ability to fulfill these responsibilities, placing additional strain on other family members or requiring external support services.
  6. Relationship Dynamics: A man’s health can impact the dynamics of his relationships within the family and other loved ones. Chronic illnesses or disabilities may require caregiving from a spouse or other family members, potentially leading to changes in roles and responsibilities within the household.

Overall, the health of men is intricately connected to the well-being of their families, and addressing men’s health issues can have positive ripple effects throughout the family unit.

How to Show Support

What can we as women do to support better health for the men in our lives? Know the facts and continue encouraging the men in your life to prioritize their health. Here are examples of ways that women can be supportive (Jackson, 2019):

  1. The Art of the Nudge: Instead of nagging, gently nudge your guy(s) by expressing your love and desire for him to be around longer. Small, positive mentions can go a long way.
  2. Find What Matters to Him: Understand what your guy(s) cares about most. Use that as a way to introduce the idea of seeing a physician. For example, emphasize how early cancer detection can preserve his quality of life and allow him to continue doing the things he loves1.
  3. Food Habits: Good nutrition plays a significant role in prevention. Encourage healthier eating habits, as they benefit cancer prevention, urologic health, and heart health alike.
  4. Know the Numbers: Help your guy(s) understand his blood pressure, cholesterol levels, waist circumference, and PSA (prostate-specific antigen). Regular screenings for colon, lung, and prostate cancer should start around age 50.

Remember, supporting men’s health benefits can not only benefit them but may also benefit their family and other loved ones.

There are many resources available that support men’s health. Two great ones are the Cleveland Clinic’s MENtion Itwebsite and the Men’s Health Network for a wealth of resources about men’s health and share with the men in your life!   Here’s a great video link to share from Cleveland Clinic’s MENtion It campaign. It’s less than 2 minutes and has a great message for the guys.   

Let’s help keep our guys healthy.  Remember, you just have to care! Keep up the good fight for the health of the guys we love.

References:

Cleveland Clinic (2018).  Cleveland Clinic Survey:  Significant Others Play Influential Role in Getting Men to Take Their Health Seriously. Retrieved 5/24/2024, from   https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2018/09/05/cleveland-clinic-survey-spouses-significant-others-play-an-influential-role-in-getting-men-to-take-their-health-seriously

Cleveland Clinic (2019).  Men will do almost anything to avoid going to the doctor. Retrieved 5/24/2024, from   

Harvard Medical School (n.d.). Men’s Health. Retrieved 5/24/2024, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/mens-health

Jackson, Heather (2019). How to make health a priority for the me in your life. Loma Linda University Health. Retrieved 5/24/2024, from   https://news.llu.edu/health-wellness/how-make-health-priority-for-men-your-life

Men’s Health Network (n.d.). Health Facts. Retrieved 5/24/2024, from https://menshealthnetwork.org/wp-content/library/healthfacts.pdf     

 OpenAI. (2024). ChatGPT (3.5 version) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com/chat