manly to live longer?

Men die five years earlier than women, on average. This is partially biological, and mostly cultural: men die sooner because they have “poorer health care behaviors and lower use of health care,” according to author Bridget Murray-Law, quoted in Tom Matlack’s article. Matlack writes, “the way to extend male life isn’t to feminize us but build upon traditionally male attributes that turn out to promote healthier choices.” Matlack quotes Murray-Law’s article: “Men high in traits that are often considered masculine ideals—self-reliance, responsibility, emotional maturity and an even-keeled approach—are more prone to visit their physicians and avoid risky behaviors, findings suggest.”

Matlack turns to Will Courtenay’s Dying to be Men: Psychosocial, Environmental, and Biobehavioral Directions in Promoting the Health of Men and Boys to suggest six “masculine” approaches to better health:

1. Humanize – men too often think that health concerns are wimpy or unmanly. Let us accept that virtually all humans have concerns about their health.

2. Educate! Men are less knowledgeable about health matters. Those with less knowledge make poorer choices.

3. Reality check. Men tend to deny or minimize their symptoms. Get real.

4. Buddy System: men have fewer friends and smaller social networks than women. Courtenay says “start a poker night, or join a church.”

5. Maintenance. Many men have better maintenance plans for their car than for themselves.

6. Compete. Stereotypically competitive, men can learn to use that nature to overcome disease or to create healthier habits.

Of the five fewer years that men live, compared to women, Murray-Law quotes one researcher that, “one year is biological and the rest is cultural.” Men have been taught *not* to care about their health; we can change that.

(photo: Vince Garcia)

2 comments to manly to live longer?

  • I saw Courtenay’s book elsewhere, but reading this began to wonder about its implications for the healthcare debate. With political power still largely in the hands of men, what effect do men’s attitudes about their own health have on public policy?

  • I believe that health plays a major role on our span of life. Of course, being unhealthy can make lives shorter than it should be. Anyway, thanks for posting this blog.
    keith recently posted..Colored Down Comforter

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