Did you know that women tend to outlive men by seven years? Or maybe you’ve heard of this life expectancy gap before, but have you ever wondered why that is?
There are many different factors that can positively or negatively impact our health, but a number of health professionals believe that “behavior” often is the most pertinent.
Some key behaviors men often portray on a regular basis can actually risk their health. Let’s take a look at a few of them and identify more positive alternatives.
1. Being Isolated From a Social Network
Social networking has become a very prominent communication outlet in today’s world. The majority of our population may think of this term primarily as referring to an online community, but this includes other in-person venues as well, such as book clubs and other group-gathering settings. Social networks not only create a foundation of belonging and relationships amongst a population, but they can positively influence health as well.
Men tend to be less inclined to involve themselves in social networking. This could be for a variety of reasons, including societal pressures to project independence versus wanting or needing the help and support of other people.
Solution: Identify an area of interest of yours and research whether there is an organization in your community that offers a group related to it. Perhaps it’s joining the run club at your fitness center, or playing with a card club in your neighborhood. Finding others with similar interests is a good way to build relationships and a base for support when you need it.
2. Letting Stress and Aggression Go Unchecked
We all experience stressors on a daily basis, and many of us undergo chronic stress that can take a toll on our body and health. Research continues to suggest that stress is a primary cause for many of the adverse health conditions in today’s world. Because we can’t always remove all of our stressors, it is important to learn how to positively deal and cope with stress.
When under stress, men tend to be hardwired to cope through aggression. Unlike many women who are more likely to share and talk through their stress with others, men may internalize stress, which can lead to a buildup of aggression. As a result, this can bring about unhealthy behaviors to try to cope with stress, such as drinking or smoking.
What’s more, stress and aggressive behavior are prone to fueling each other, creating a vicious cycle.
Solution: Although you may feel like you are burdening someone else with your stress or problems, identifying a few people you can count on to share your thoughts and feelings with is beneficial. (And chances are, it would be far from an encumbrance on any of those individuals.)
Other more productive stress relievers could include scheduling a monthly massage, taking long walks, planning a low-key fishing trip, and getting regular exercise. Make a list of things you enjoy doing (that aren’t stressful), and reference that list when you are stressed.
3. Avoiding Checkups and Lab Testing
If you are a man, ask yourself when the last time was that you visited the doctor.
Men are significantly less likely to visit a physician to receive preventative health care exams compared to women. This alone could be the most crucial behavior that impacts the life expectancy gap between the sexes. Because of this reluctance to go to the doctor, men are more likely to be diagnosed in a later stage of a terminal illness, and less likely to even notice symptoms.
Many men I know have the mentality of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” so if they can’t see or feel an external stimulus, they will think there is nothing ever wrong. Prostate cancer is a prime example of a condition that goes undetected for both lack of symptoms and regular exams.
Some of the reasons that influence the decision to avoid the doctor can include wanting to evade the expense, fear, and embarrassment of being vulnerable — especially with more intimate procedures.
Solution: Talk to friends who have a regular physician they trust and like — and make an appointment.
A physician will give you annual, age-appropriate screenings. Document an ongoing list of questions/concerns for discussion.
Forming a regular relationship with a doctor you trust is the first step to being proactive about your health and will help you make lifestyle changes and informed decisions as needed.