For many years, Aussies have fostered a picture of the average man as being a healthy, strong, larrikin who loves a beer and doesn’t worry about the little things.
But could this image be hurting men’s health?
Unfortunately, yes. In fact, Australian men fall victim to numerous health problems, both mental and physical and are likely to engage in risky health behaviours.
So, what can men do to improve their health and increase their life expectancy?
Heart disease, suicide and cancer are among the major causes of death for Australian men, many of which are preventable or can be addressed through a change in lifestyle.
Matters of the Mind
Despite the toxic culture surrounding mental illness in men, it is far from uncommon. According to Beyond Blue, an Australian mental health organisation, one in eight Australian men will experience depression in their lifetime but are far less likely to seek help for mental health conditions than women.
Thankfully, there are many options out there for men who wish to improve their mental health.
- By eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and sleeping plenty, men can build the basic foundations for good mental health.
- Participating in feel-good activities is a great way to boost your mood. Try doing things that make you happy such as indulging in your hobbies or consuming your favourite media.
- Making the time to spend with friends and family is crucial to your mental wellbeing.
- Join a community group such as a sports club. This is a fun way to meet new people and combat the very common feeling of loneliness.
Throughout your lifetime your mental health will vary but if you feel persistently sad, down or miserable for more than two weeks, you could be experiencing symptoms of depression. Both depression and anxiety are medical conditions which means they should be treated accordingly by going to a doctor. Just as you would seek help for a broken leg, the same applies for your mental health. If you ignore your mental health, it’s not going to go away, these issues can persist for months and sometimes years, affecting your ability to function on a day-to-day basis.
Although mental illness often goes undetected and is therefore treated less, when it comes to illnesses of the physical just because it is easier to identify doesn’t mean men are doing more to prevent it. Heart disease and cancer pose major risks to the health of Aussie men and their causes often overlap. Obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity and smoking are the foremost risk factors in the development of heart disease and three of the four deadliest cancers for males (bowel, lung and prostate).
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to improve these aspects of your physical health and help to avoid these diseases. By adopting these healthy lifestyle behaviours, men can work on improving their overall health.
- Aim for a healthy weight–Maintaining a healthy weight, which you can find recommended according to your BMI (body mass index), can reduce the risk of many illnesses such as bowel cancer and heart disease.
- Healthy diet, healthy you–By eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and also avoiding processed foods, you can improve not only your physical self, but how you feel mentally.
- Get Active–If working out intimidates you, don’t jump headfirst into an extreme workout routine. Start by getting the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity a day. That could be a walk, jog or other forms of fitness.
- Quit Smoking–There are many resources out there that can help you quit smoking. Among the many benefits that come with quitting are lengthening of your life expectancy and decreasing your risk of heart disease.
- Protect the skin you’re in–Whenever you are exposed to UV, ensure you use sunscreen and wear protective clothing including a hat and sunglasses. Don’t forget to seek shade whenever possible.
- Maintain mental health- Depression, social isolation and lack of support can reduce overall health and increase the risk of heart disease.
The unfortunate stigma surrounding mental illness in males puts extra stress onto an already difficult situation. Seeking help is crucial if you are struggling with your mental wellbeing. Aussie men also need to be aware of their elevated risk of heart disease and cancer and work to implement positive lifestyle changes.
If you, or anyone you know is struggling, please reach out to the Butterfly Foundation National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (ED HOPE) or email firstname.lastname@example.org or jump on their website to chat www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au