- by Jim Pollard
- Websites Editor
- Men’s Health Forum
Men don’t go and see their GP as often as women. Now let’s not kid ourselves, as some men doubtless do, that men don’t have as much cause to go as women: at every age group bar one men are more likely to die than women. True, there are more deaths among women over 85 than among men but this is for the simple reason that there are very few men left at this age (1).
The most pronounced difference in GP attendance is in the age group 20-40 when women attend twice as much as men. Can this all be down to child-rearing? The fact that after retirement men tend to visit a GP as often as women suggests that work may well be a factor too.
We know from the most recent Skills and Employment survey that job insecurity in 2012 was higher than at any time in the previous two decades. Job insecurity is implicated in increased mental and physical health problems. For example, it increases the risk of asthma by 60%.
Two years on, it’s unlikely that insecurity has decreased. Given that in the last year the number of UK workers in the UK earning less than £7.69 an hour has increased by 250,000 to over 5 million – one fifth of the workforce, it has probably got a lot worse. Is this a job market in which you would risk asking for time off work to go to the GP? With 87% of men working full-time, perhaps what’s most remarkable is that so many men still do find time to get to the GP!
Men’s Health Forum manifesto cover
Paying the living wage and reducing insecure forms of employment would help but the need for health services that reflect the reality of male lives is also clear. The Men’s Health Forum, in its recently published Manifesto, is calling on local health systems and Public Health England to collect and analyse gender-disaggregated data and to act on it to ensure that services are appropriate for and targeted at men.
For example, NHS Health Checks are primarily about reducing heart disease. Now, men make up 75% of those dying prematurely from heart disease yet only 35% of local authority NHS Health Check providers even know how many men they are reaching with the programme. The evidence from those who do know is that men are far less likely to attend with only 44% of participants male. Similarly, the Forum has just published How to Make Weight-Loss Services Work For Men to help service-providers address the absence of men on such programmes. Two thirds of men are overweight or obese yet only 10-30% of participants on weight-management programmes are male.
Of course, it will always need to be a joint approach which is why the Forum works both with service-providers to make services more male-friendly and with men to enable them to be better informed about their own health and the importance of holding on to it. In its manifesto, the Forum is also calling for improved symptom-awareness and knowledge of the health system – especially how to seek help – starting with boys in school. If boys understand the importance of watching their health before they start work, they may be better empowered to do something about it once in the workplace – and that includes going to the GP.
(1) ONS (2014) Mortality Statistics: Death registered in England and Wales, 2013