SIDNEY — Men need to start taking better care of themselves.
A recent report released by the Men’s Health Network, (MHN) of Washington, D.C., states that “overall, men live ‘sicker’ and shorter lives than women.” It calls men’s health a “silent crisis, a crisis of epic proportions.”
Citing information provided by the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other sources, the reporters note that in Ohio, life expectancy at birth for men is five years shorter than for women. Ohio women live to be an average of 80.2 years old; Ohio men, 75.2.
The numbers are slightly better in Shelby County, according to information from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. The institute compiled information county by county for all 3,143 counties in the U.S.
Life expectancy in Shelby County is 80.6 years for women; 76.1 years for men. The gap is even smaller in Auglaize County: 80.9 years for women; 77.4 years for men.
There are many reasons why men live shorter lives. The MHN report notes that men tend to work in jobs that are more dangerous than women’s and that they “put work above their own safety.” Other statistics indicate that men engage in heavy drinking and binge drinking more than women do and they smoke more.
In 2012, the latest year for which statistics are available, in Shelby County, 12.9 percent of men and 6.3 percent of women engaged in heavy drinking. In Auglaize County, the numbers are 13.9 percent and 7 percent, respectively. The binge drinking numbers show a wider disparity between the sexes in both counties. Twice as many Shelby County men, 30 percent, as women, 14.9 percent, and almost twice as many Auglaize County men, 28.4 percent, as women, 17.7 percent, engaged in binge drinking.
When it comes to smoking, the ratios are closer together, but men still top out: Shelby County, 26.9 percent of men to 22.5 percent of women; Auglaize County, 24.9 percent of men to 21 percent of women lit up.
In comparing men to women, however, the scales tip the other direction when it comes to obesity and physical activity. More women than men are obese, which isn’t surprising because more men than women make physical activity a daily routine.
Still, MHN has sent up red flags because, it says, men are not aware of their own health needs. The CDC notes that women have more regular contact with their doctors than do men and are twice as likely as men to have preventative examinations.
“This means that men often do not receive any preventive care for potentially life-threatening conditions, nor are those conditions diagnosed early when they are easier to treat and/or cure,” the MHN report says.
Nine of the top 10, man-killing diseases in Ohio are on the women’s top 10 list, too: Cardiovascular diseases have the dubious distinction of heading both rolls. Then follow cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s disease, influenza and pneumonia, kidney diseases and blood poisoning.
The one that’s not on the list for women is suicide. Four times as many men as women in Ohio commit suicide. In 2014, four suicides occurred in Shelby County according to the Shelby County Health Department. All of them were by men.
“Risk factors for suicide include loss (relational, social, work, or financial), family history of suicide, history of child maltreatment, history of depression, history of mental disorders, history of alcohol and substance abuse, feelings of hopelessness, local epidemics of suicide, social isolation and unwillingness or inability to seek help for mental health issues or suicidal thoughts,” the MHN report said.
What may be even more shocking is that suicide shows up in the top six causes of death among Ohio boys 17 and under! The others are unintentional injuries, birth defects, homicide, cancer and heart disease. Suicide ranks fourth on that list.
MHN thinks injuries, homicide and suicide are the results of boys’ risky behaviors. “High school boys in Ohio are more likely than girls to not wear a seatbelt, drive while drinking, carry a weapon including guns and get into physical fights,” it noted.
The report concludes by voicing hope that the state of men’s health will improve. It cites men’s use of the Internet to anonymously find health information, male peer support and targeted suicide- and violence-prevention programs — as well as the proliferation of health clinics in supermarkets and pharmacies, which makes access to care easier — as reasons for optimism.