In 1920, the life expectancy gender gap was only 1 year between men and women. In 2014, the gap rose to men dying 5 years sooner. Statistically, men have a significantly higher death rate in most categories, including the following:
Typically, males outnumber females at birth, 105 males born for every 100 females, but beginning at age 35 women begin to outnumber men. This disparity usually begins to take place in the age range of males 15-24 due to risk-taking behaviors, and suicide, and those behaviors continue for a variety of reasons. When it comes to health, males tend to fall short compared to women. But why? There’s no single answer, rather, the gap depends on a complex mix of biological, social and behavioral factors. Work stress, lack of exercise and routine medical care, hormones, aggression and violence are just a few examples – and they only scratch the surface of a complex, health crisis.
Increased mortality rates among men:
- In 2016 it was reported by the CDC that 21.4 % of adult males went without a “usual source of healthcare” versus 12.3 % of women.
- Men make and attend half as many physician visits for prevention.
- Research on male-specific diseases is underfunded.
Is substance abuse/excessive use a factor?
How much more likely to die are men than women as a result of risk-taking behaviors? In 2010, 3.14 million men − as opposed to 1.72 million women − died from causes linked to excessive alcohol use. For many men, excessive consumption of alcohol is linked to notions of masculinity. For example, a study of men in the Russian Federation showed that heavy drinking of strong spirits “elevates or maintains a man’s status in working-class social groups by facilitating access to power associated with the hegemonic ideal of the real working man.”
In 2016 it was reported by the CDC that 8.3 % of men versus 3.9% of women reported “heavy” alcohol use. Additionally, it was also reported that 12.8% of men versus 8.5% of women abused any “illicit drug.” Substance abuse, such as alcoholism, takes a terrible toll on employment, personal life and family life. Heavy use also shortens the life by increasing the likelihood of hypertension, heart failure and traumatic death. There’s no question that substance abuse is equally devastating for both men and women, but with the prevalence rates of drug and alcohol use disorders being consistently higher among men, it’s important to understand how that impacts society as a whole.
What are the larger societal impacts of premature death among men?
“Men’s physical illness, for example, can impair the psychological health of their female partners; when men are sick, injured or die, household and female partners suffer a loss of income” (Baker, et al., 2014). It has been shown in numerous studies that premature death of a male spouse has a considerable negative impact on the widow’s income, and they are then 3 to 4 times more likely to live in poverty as compared to married women of the same age. Over half of elderly widows living in poverty were not poor prior to the death of their husband. For children, the death of a parent is not just traumatic, but it changes children biologically and psychologically, resulting in physical and mental ailments that can affect their development and well-being.
It is important to raise awareness on this seemingly silent health crisis and with proper preventative measures society could see potential benefits to women, children and society as whole. During Men’s Health Month, it’s encouraged for men to take control of their mental and physical health, and for their families to teach young boys health habits throughout childhood.
Author: Brian Nicholson, Program Manager at Common Ground’ Sober Support Unit