International Men’s Health Week is an annual observance that aims to raise awareness about the health challenges faced by men and promote strategies for better physical and mental well-being. It encourages men of all ages to prioritize their health, seek preventive care, and engage in conversations about important health issues. The men’s health week for this year was held between June 10, 2024 and June 16, 2024.

Men’s Health Week originated in the United States in 1994 and has since spread to countries around the world. Strategically placed in the week preceding or the week of Father’s Day, it was established as an opportunity to address the disparities in men’s health outcomes and advocate for improved health education and awareness among men.

Men’s health issues tend to receive less attention from the public and this translates to a lower life expectancy and lower quality of life. A 2021 WHO report stated that the life expectancy of men was five years lesser than that of women. This cut across countries; there was no country in which the life expectancy for men was equal to or higher than that of women. Men also tend to have lower health-seeking behaviour, with many believing that they are “fine” until their health suddenly nosedives. Despite greater opportunities, privileges and sometimes better access to health services, men continue to suffer poor health outcomes.

The poor health outcomes of men is not only due to health-seeking behaviour. Inherent biological peculiarities, as well as economic, environmental, sociocultural and political influences hold men’s health in the balance. Many of the causes linked to men dying earlier—poor diet, smoking, alcohol, insufficient physical activity— are modifiable and can be changed by behavioural adaptation and quality health care.

In particular mental healthcare is non-existent for most men. Many mental health initiatives rarely take the peculiarities of men’s mental health into consideration, rather painting both sexes with the same brush. Particularly in cultures where men don’t cry, the frustration is silent but agonising. It is not surprising that almost 80% of suicides are committed by men, with older men being more susceptible.

Of course the most important people affected by their poor health is men themselves. But the rarely mentioned reality is that the poor state of men’s health profoundly impairs the functioning of families, societies and countries. Families with the primary male figure having poor health are less stable, and there have been numerous studies on the economic consequences resulting from preventable male illnesses.

Thankfully, the narrative is slowly being changed. Men are taking more responsibility and advocating for their own health. The theme for Men’s Health Week 2024—Men’s Health Checks—emphasises the need to prioritise prevention and early detection over treatment for men’s health issues. Whether it’s encouraging regular check-ups, organizing educational sessions, engaging in physical activities, sharing health information, or supporting men’s health organizations, every effort counts towards creating a culture of proactive and holistic health among men.

Men have always been and will always be important members of the community. Unfortunately at every stage of their lives, they face challenges that threaten their physical, mental and social health. It is important that we recognise men’s peculiar health challenges and offer them a listening ear and supportive shoulder. Men do after all deserve to live healthy happy lives.

Goodness Abisoye


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