Friday, December 3, 2004

Getting Inside Men's Health - Report

The report, Getting Inside Men's Health was launched on 1st December. It is the culmination of a three year research study on men's health, funded by the Health Promotion Unit, Department of Health and Children, and carried out in the South Eastern Health Board.

Key findings:
- Men tend not to be health conscious or proactive about their health For many Irish men, it appears that health has simply never been on their agenda. Sadly, it may be on foot of a `wake-up call' such as a health crisis, that they become conscious or proactive about their health. This is compounded by young men's sense of invincibility.

- Men's knowledge of fundamental health issues remains poor. Less than half of men surveyed knew what the function of the prostate gland was, while over a third were not aware of some of common prostate cancer symptoms.

- Three out of four men aged 18-29 were not aware that young men were at highest risk of developing testicular cancer.

- There is an overall lack of a preventative health ethos among Irish men Just one in five drinkers reported monitoring their own alcohol consumption.

- Three out of four men aged 50 and over reported never having had a Digital Rectal Examination (prostate cancer check).

- Just one in seven men aged 18-29 reported practicing Testicular Self Examinations monthly.

- Men go to their GPs reluctantly. Over half of men surveyed expressed varying degrees of reluctance to attend their GP, with women playing a key role in prompting `reluctant attenders' to go.

- Men are very often afraid to seek help. Many men expressed fear or anxiety about going to the doctor, with fear appearing under many guises. - silence, denial, procrastination, fatalism, the notion of a self-healing ability. It also appears that the fear and uncertainty of `what might be wrong' may pose a bigger threat to men's health, than the reality of ill-health itself.

- For many men, there appears to be a sliding scale of acceptability in terms of how they cope with different illnesses. The continued stigma that is perceived to be associated with depression for example, appears to prompt some men to `self-medicate' with alcohol, and/or to resort to violent behaviour, rather than to seek help.

- A `drinking culture' is endemic in Irish society. The `drinking man' continues to be upheld with considerable honour even by his more abstemious male peers. Half of those consuming over 50 units per week (i.e. over twice the recommended maximum limit), considered themselves to be `moderate' drinkers, while nine out of ten `weekly' binge drinkers similarly considered themselves to be `light' or `moderate' drinkers.

- Alcohol advertising poses a real challenge to men's health, in that it connects alcohol use with connotations of sexual prowess, and the achievement of optimum performance in sport.

- There was strong evidence that risk-taking behaviour is seen as an integral part of defining ones masculinity, and of `being a man'. The issue of male violence for example was found to be an obligatory way of defining and sustaining allegiance to male peer groups.

- Three out of four men surveyed reported adopting strategies of `avoidance' or `silence' in the way that they managed themselves through an emotional or mental health issue.

- Men associated an increased health consciousness with becoming a father. For example, two-thirds of all fathers reported taking fewer risks with their health on becoming a father.

The quantitative research study was carried out across the five counties in the South East. 570 men were selected randomly. The report was commissioned to inform the development of a national policy for men's health in Ireland.

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