Something unheard of happened at Luma Health headquarters today: we managed to get out of our usual Friday sweatpants and hoodies and wear matching clothes!
How did we accomplish this feat, you may ask? The answer is simple: men’s health! Today is Wear BLUE Day for Men’s Health Month, and every member of the Luma Health team ditched their typical mismatched outfits to wear blue in recognition.
Now, you might be wondering, does men’s health merit its own month? Are there unique barriers to health that men tend to face more than women?
It’s a fair point. After all, we know that women face some serious health disparities. But that doesn’t mean men don’t face their own challenges. Men often experience health difficulties that can go unnoticed or neglected—hence the importance of Men’s Health Month, intended to foster awareness of and conversation about men’s health issues. During this month, care providers can take the opportunity to encourage men to seek necessary medical treatment and advice. Here are four noteworthy facts to know during Men’s Health Month.
Men are less likely to seek healthcare than women.
Who doesn’t love superheroes like Captain America and Superman? They’re the paragon of toughness and grit, fearlessness and brawn. But as popular as these heroes are, their influence may have unwittingly created a problem in the healthcare field.
There’s a culture- and media-driven expectation for men to be strong and, like superheroes, rarely show signs of weakness. This socially-ingrained mindset subconsciously trains men to believe that going to the doctor exhibits weakness.
A survey conducted by The Cleveland Clinic confirmed this trend, finding that 40 percent of men go to the doctor only when they have a serious health issue, and never go for routine checkups. This number is far lower than women’s frequency of doctor visits. Needless to say, it’s a concerning figure.
Men also tend to exhibit a fear of diagnosis. About 21% of men admit to avoiding the doctor because they’re too nervous to find out what might be wrong. It seems that the pressure to conceal weaknesses is so strong that it can even lead men into a state of denial, and again, this is a worrying statistic. To be clear: ignoring your medical problems will not make them go away.
Let’s work together to turn this trend around and create a cultural shift where men don’t find it embarrassing or emasculating to seek out medical help.
Prostate cancer affects one in nine men.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are about 175,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed each year, and prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men. Given these statistics, it’s important to ensure that at-risk men are being screened for prostate cancer—especially considering men’s known reluctance to seek preventive care.
On the bright side, however, prostate cancer typically grows slowly, so many cases don’t require immediate treatment and aren’t life-threatening. Still, the earlier prostate cancer is caught, the easier it can be contained. It’s always better to be on the safe side.
Some more good news: there are plenty of opportunities throughout the year to show your support for prostate health. September is designated as National Prostate Health Month, and later in the year, there’s Movember. Movember, unsurprisingly celebrated in the month of November, is a campaign that challenges men to grow mustaches to raise awareness and funds for prostate or testicular cancer research. The Movember Foundation’s ultimate goal is to “change the face of men’s health.” (Get it?) Who knows, maybe we’ll see a member of the Luma Health team grow a mustache this Movember—stay tuned!
Mental health is one of the most stigmatized issues affecting men.
Many men—perhaps more than we think—struggle with their mental health and the stigma that surrounds it. The American Psychological Association reports that 30.6% of men have suffered from depression in their lifetime. Again, men’s hesitation to seek care may be worsening this issue.
Men are notorious for not talking about their feelings, and no, that’s not just another stereotype. It’s an actual trend psychologists have documented. In the eyes of many men, discussing emotions is just another form of vulnerability that can lead to discomfort. It can be scary for many men to begin sharing their feelings, but the payoff is worth it: men who express their feelings verbally are less likely to express them violently.
So talk to the men in your life. Encourage them to talk about their day, to tell you about their emotions, and to be open with you. They may be resistant at first, but persistence is powerful, and you’ll be doing your part to improve men’s mental health.
The average man should be making better lifestyle choices to protect his health.
The stats back it up: men drink more heavily and smoke more frequently than women. We hate to be Debbie Downers, but habitual drinking and smoking can have severe health implications. Drugs and alcohol can cause issues ranging from lung and heart disease to liver problems to preventable accidents.
Plus, men tend to make less healthy choices in the kitchen. Women eat far more fruits and vegetables than men, while men prefer meat and dairy. Yes, we know we’re starting to sound like a broken record about the impact of cultural factors, but it’s likely that social norms are influencing this trend, too. Cultural expectations can play a subliminal role in men’s dietary choices and can have consequences over time.
Partly due to health behaviors, men have a shorter life expectancy than women. This gap has only continued to widen over time, and men are currently expected to live 5 fewer years than women, on average. So if anyone asks why we need a month for men’s health, this disparity in lifespan should speak for itself—men simply aren’t as healthy as they could be, and it’s time to fix that.
Why Wearing Blue Matters
There’s no doubt that men’s health issues deserve attention. And men must be encouraged to continue seeking health care. The responsibility lies upon all of us to keep this necessary conversation going, even once June is over—because men’s health is always worthy of discussion. Let’s break down stigmas, embolden men to seek care, and continue to ensure that no patient falls through the cracks.
Want to learn more about how to support Men’s Health Month? Get event ideas, promotional materials, and more facts at www.menshealthmonth.org.