‘Traditional’ male role weighing heavy on Leeds men as startling health statistics emerge

Picture by PA Photo/ thinkstockphotos.

Picture by PA Photo/ thinkstockphotos.

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Macho traditions of a bygone era, where men were seen as breadwinners, providing security for their families, are no longer possible for many men – and the impact is being felt on men’s health.

A wide-ranging study by researchers at the Centre for Men’s Health at Leeds Beckett University has unearthed some startling statistics about male mortality rates, preventable illnesses, unemployment and mental health among men.

Released to coincide with Men’s Health Week, the Leeds City Council-commissioned study offers advice to employers, educators and health care staff while urging policy makers to make clear the impact of decisions on genders.

It found that men are more likely to die younger than women in Leeds, with most of men’s health issues being preventable such as through being overweight, drinking too much alcohol or smoking.

Meanwhile the burden of expectation on males, of whom around 2,000 in Leeds are single parents and 6,000 who are of working age act as unpaid carers for 20 or more hours a week, is seemingly having a negative impact on their health.

Alan White, professor of men’s health at Leeds Beckett, led the study. He warned that across nearly all causes of death, men in Leeds are more likely to die younger than women.

“Historically men have been expected to be breadwinners, providing security for their family, with long-term employment and a well-defined place in society,” he said, “This ‘traditional’ way of living is no longer possible for many men and we see an increasing reality of unemployment, fragile partnerships and poverty, which can have a negative effect on their mental and physical wellbeing.”

Researchers called on employers to engage with workers to reduce stress through flexible hours, benefits and leave time. They recommended more support for men during pregnancy, longer paternity leave and assistance for lone fathers.

While reporting that the suicide rate is five-times higher for men in the city than women, the study’s also authors called for more active support for the large numbers of men who are socially isolated in Leeds, while recommending better links between smoking and alcohol services and other health services.

An emphasis was also put on how GPs should discuss men’s weight and physical activity more, and weight management services should target men more effectively.

Coun Rebecca Charlwood, chair of the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “The way services are designed in Leeds and how we are all treated needs to reflect these differences.”

Visit leedsbeckett.ac.uk/stateofmenshealth for details.

Research highlights health issues

The Leeds Beckett University study revealed a series of alarming figures:

- The rate of death from suicide is five times higher for men than women.

- There are approximately 368,000 males in Leeds. The biggest rise in population over the next 20 years is expected in older men.

- Almost four out of 10 men aged 50 or over have a disability that affects their daily lives.

- Boys are less likely to achieve a good level of basic education and higher grade GCSEs compared to girls.

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