Could Being Male Be Bad for Your Health?

In over 98 percent of countries in the world, women live longer than men. In the United States, life expectancy for men is five years shorter than women. Why is this the case? Are men genetically programmed to die sooner then women?

Some experts say that masculinity itself is killing men. In other words, in the same way that men typically don't ask for directions when they are lost, men may feel it is not "masculine" to seek help for potentially serious medical symptoms.

In fact, studies show that men are three times less likely to have visited a doctor in the past year. This leads to fewer opportunities to screen men for high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, substance abuse, cigarette smoking, depression or anxiety. This lack of identification of such health risks leads to fewer chances to intervene early in the process of a disease, and therefore heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer get into more advanced stages before ever getting diagnosed or treated.

The Result

It turns out that of the top 10 causes of death in the United States, men are winning in nine of them.

It seems that since men are typically taught in our culture to be tough and not to cry, that social training, for example, can lead middle-aged men who have chest pains to ignore them as a signal of heart disease. All too often men with symptoms which could signal diseases such as heart disease or cancer choose to ignore them, rather than face the embarrassment of seeing a doctor.

Men's habits and roles also play a part in earlier death. In the United States, 95 percent of workers in the 10 most hazardous occupations are still men. As a result, men die in workplace accidents at much higher rates than women.

Other male risky behaviors include driving faster than women, drinking more alcohol, being more likely to eat an unhealthy diet, and higher levels of stress.

Doctor avoidance, risky behavior, and stress may be the best explanations for why being male may be bad for your health.

What to Do

To beat the odds, follow these suggestions

Make sure you have a doctor. Many men report not having a doctor. Talk to your employer, peers, or colleagues to get a recommendation and make an appointment to start building a relationship.

Get a check-up. If you have not seen a doctor in over a year, call now to schedule an appointment. During the visit, give your doctor as much information as you can about your medical history and any medications you are taking. Also, be sure to tell your doctor about any problems that you may be having, even if they feel embarrassing.

Report your symptoms to your doctor. If you are experiencing symptoms of any kind that indicate a disturbance with your health, call your doctor for an appointment.

Exercise. Not only will exercising on a regular basis (3 to 5 times a week, for at least 30 minutes at a time) reduce your risk for heart disease, obesity and diabetes, it will help reduce your stress level and keep your mind and body at ease through the release of endorphins (your body's natural feel-good chemicals). 

Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet will reduce your risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancers; additionally, healthy eating will give you energy to combat stress by providing you with the essential nutrients that your body requires to function at an optimal level. Eat vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean meats.

Practice Yoga or Meditation. Stress and anxiety can deplete your immune system making you susceptible to disease. Learn to relax your mind and body through yoga and meditation. This is excellent preventative medicine.

Note: Probably the most "manly" thing you can do these days is to call your doctor to save your own life and live in optimal health. 




Center for Disease Control and Prevention. "Leading Causes of Death." 31 Dec. 2010. Web. 1 Apr. 2010.

Gorman, Bridget and Jennan Ghezal Read. "Why Men Die Younger Than Women. Geriatrics and Aging." 10(3): 182-191. 2007. Web. 1 Apr. 2010.

Spar, Myles. "Why Do Men Die Younger Than Women?" The Huffington Post. 11 Feb. 2010. Web. 1 Apr. 2010.

"World Health Statistics 2007." World Health Organization.  Web. 1 Apr. 2010.

Why Guys Die Sooner. WebMD. 17 Sept. 2001. Web. 1 Apr. 2010.