Last month, The American Journal of Men’s Health posted a research article entitled, “Designing Men’s Health Programs: The 5C Framework.” In the article, researchers propose a model to assist practitioners building men’s health programs to improve accessibility and engagement. The “5C framework” suggests that program designers consider the particulars of traditional masculinity to entice men to access and engage health programs more regularly. By the way, the 5 Cs are co-production, cost, context, content, and communication.
I appreciated the thoughtful research and scholarship that went into the piece and the framework proposed because the longevity gap between men and women continues to grow. In the United States, life expectancy in 2021 was 79.1 years for women and 73.2 years for men. That 5.9-year difference is the largest gap in a quarter-century. Look at the current health risk data for boys and men in the US…
- Men are at a greater risk of dying from covid-19 than women, a gap that cannot be explained by rates of infection or preexisting conditions. The age-adjusted death rate for covid was 140 deaths per 100,000 for males and 87.7 per 100,000 for females.
- More men die of diabetes than women. The death rates for men are 31.2 per 100,000 people vs. 19.5 per 100,000 for women.
- The cancer mortality rate is higher among men — 189.5 per 100,000 — compared with 135.7 per 100,000 for women.
- Death rates for boys and teens ages 10 to 19 (44.5 per 100,000) far outpace that for girls (21.3 per 100,000). Even among infants, the mortality rate is higher for boys (5.87 per 1,000 live births) vs. girls (4.95 per 1,000).
- Men die by suicide nearly four times more often than women, based on 2020 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of suicide is highest in middle-aged white men, but teen boys also face a high risk.
- In 2020, 72 percent of all motor vehicle crash death victims were male. Men also accounted for 71 percent of pedestrian deaths, 87 percent of bicyclist deaths and 92 percent of motorcyclist deaths.
***Quick editorial note…I am using these stats not to elevate the plight of men vs. women, but to accentuate what I think is a big failing of men when it comes to this issue which I make at the end***
One of the factors contributing to these results according to clinicians can be biological (i.e., high levels of testosterone can weaken immune response). Another is likely to be that men in general engage in more risky behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, smoking and reckless driving. I wonder are these behaviors somehow biological too? Or a result of cultural conditioning? Or a mix? No doubt, the 5C researchers view the aspect of “normative” masculinity that teaches boys and men to hide their feelings, not complain, “suck it up,” tolerate the pain, and remain stoic as a big factor in men’s passive attitudes about healthcare.
As I read the 5C paper, my reaction was men are so tied to their “masculine” identities that in an effort to maintain some societal image of what it means to be a man they will risk their health, their life. Really? Therefore, according to the 5C researchers, the “system” needs to work within this context and essentially manipulate men to engage. Nuts. As I say in the title, what if men just got their heads out of their asses (a healthy move in so many ways!) and visited the doctor. Back to stats above, the CDC reports that women are 33 percent more likely to visit the doctor than men, and women are 100 percent better at maintaining screening and preventive care. Could this have something to do with the longevity gap?? Highly likely, but let’s not overthink it, fellas. Take care.