Aussie men not equal in health
Life’s riskier for some Australian men than others, a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found – especially if they’re Indigenous, or live in a regional, remote or socio-economically disadvantaged area.
The health of Australia’s males: a focus on five population groups was launched at a Men’s Shed in Murrumbateman, near the ACT, by Minister for Indigenous Health Warren Snowdon.
The report shows ‘just being a part of these groups can have a very mixed impact on health, but often preventable risk factors play a role,’ Mr Snowdon said at the launch.
‘For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men have a reduced life expectancy of 67 years – 11.5 years less than the wider male population. With men living in remote areas having a higher rate of lung cancer, and are around twice as likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and suicide.’
Indigenous men have higher rates of chronic diseases like lung cancer, diabetes and kidney disease, and health conditions that are uncommon in the general population, such as scabies, trachoma and acute rheumatic fever, the report shows.
Men in remote areas also generally have shorter life expectancies and poorer self-assessed health status.
As remoteness increases, so too do health factors such as obesity rates, tobacco use and consumption of alcohol at risky levels. Men in remote areas also have more new cases of lung cancer, hospitalisations for Type 2 diabetes, and deaths from COPD, diabetes and suicide.
Likewise, socio-economic disadvantage correlated with higher rates of obesity and tobacco smoking, more new cases of lung cancer, hospitalisations for Type 2 diabetes, and deaths from coronary heart disease, lung cancer, COPD, diabetes and suicide.
However, some groups of men have better than average health in some areas: men born overseas have fewer risk factors and overall lower mortality and hospitalisations compared with men born in Australia.
Also, older males (aged 65 and over) are living longer than ever before, and have fewer risk factors such as overweight/obesity and tobacco smoking than younger men.
‘However, overseas born males have lower rates of physical activity and bowel cancer screening, higher rates of lung cancer and hospitalisations for Type 2 diabetes and heart attack, and more deaths from diabetes and lung cancer,’ says AIHW CEO and director David Kalisch.
‘And as age increases, males are at greater risk of bowel cancer, melanoma, dementia and injury from falls.’
Mr Snowdon says the AIHW report, a component of the National Male Health Policy released by the Government in 2010 and the second in a series of 4 to be produced by the AIHW, ‘will help raise awareness of male health in the community and will contribute towards policy development and the work of health professionals and others concerned with these issues.
‘The National Male Health Policy provides a framework for improving the health of all males and achieving equal health outcomes for population groups of males at risk of poor health.
‘For example, the policy supports men’s sheds – such as the one at Murrumbateman – which provide meeting places where men can find social support and camaraderie.
‘The 76 men’s sheds funded to date have been very successful in reaching marginalised and isolated males and improving male health and wellbeing.’
The launch of the AIHW report was one of several activities around the country celebrating Men’s Health Week, which has just ended.
These activities include a ‘What’s your score?’ survey developed by Foundation 49, Diabetes Australia and the Skin Cancer College as a part of Men’s Health Week. Mr Snowdon encouraged men to complete the survey.
‘This 2-minute health assessment will allow men to see how their health rates against some of our leading sports celebrities and media personalities, and will hopefully encourage them to undertake a regular health checkup.’