International Men’s Day – Do we really need this? Maybe…
Looking for inspiration for this blog post, I turned to several observance day calendars. Top for November 19 is International Men’s Day. At first glance, somehow, that just didn’t seem worthy. But I was curious.
A quick review of Wikipedia’s description reveals there are six pillars to this day, and, as a white male in a safe and privileged society, two of these pillars – celebrating men’s positive contributions and highlighting discrimination against males – are a little difficult for me to personally advocate for.
However, as I looked a bit more, I found myself thinking, “I could easily get behind supporting the other pillars,” including improving gender relations and gender equality, and creating a safer and better world.
I also definitely support the pillar of promoting men’s and boys’ health. As someone who has worked in health promotion in various forms for decades and more importantly, as the father/step-father of five young men, men’s and boys’ physical and mental health has been on my mind pretty much every day for almost 25 years.
Drawing on an article from the Canadian Urological Association Journal from 2014, here are a few male-specific health trends that are worrisome but, unfortunately, not surprising:
- Men are more likely to die of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes at younger ages than women.
- Men generally have poorer nutritional habits than women and are more likely to be overweight.
- Men are three to four times more likely to commit suicide, and middle-aged men are at greatest risk.
- Men are more likely to take unnecessary risks, whether it’s men in their late teens and twenties driving or among all men in their occupations.
- Men are less likely to seek healthcare services until convinced by their partners to do so.
- Approximately 70% of men’s chronic health conditions can be attributed to lifestyle and, therefore, are potentially preventable.
This last bullet is perhaps the most troubling, but it is also where, I believe, the greatest hope lies. For those men who might be reading this (and, more likely their partners, sisters or mothers), my hope is that, on this day, you can reflect on your lifestyle and see if there are tweaks you can make to lessen your risk: more plant-based food in your diet, 10 minutes more activity per day, time outdoors or other ways to calm your mind, 30 minutes of less screen time per day, etc.
And, if you’ve made changes, I hope you will take the opportunity to share with others, to model for other men your age and younger men who value and respect your opinion.