Men’s Health Week calls for health and social services tailored to men

As men in Australia contend with low life expectancy and high rates of suicide, the organisers of Men's Health Week (opens in a new window) at Western Sydney University have called for a renewed focus on the social networks that support physical and mental health.

Politicians and health professionals gathered at Parliament House in Canberra today for the launch of Men's Health Week by His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

In Australia, a baby girl born in 2010 can expect to live to 82 years old, yet a baby boy born at the same time only has a life expectancy of 78 years.

The majority of male deaths are attributed to accidents, cancer and heart disease. In addition, men take their own lives at four times the rate of women, with six Australian men losing their lives to suicide every day.

Professor John Macdonald, Director of the Men's Health Information Resource Centre (MHIRC) at Western Sydney University, says men's health is not just determined by male-specific illnesses such as prostate cancer.

"Rather than focusing solely on medical interventions when men get sick, we must address the social factors that contribute to the high rate of illness and death among Australian men. Prevention is always preferable than finding a cure," says Professor Macdonald.

"A major issue for many men is that their social networks are not as extensive as those of their female peers, meaning they can go without the informal advice, support and counselling provided by those networks.

"To help address this, we are calling for more 'male friendly' health services to help support the men in our lives, especially those that are retired. Too many men in Australia are isolated, and we need to reach out to them with services tailored to their needs."

Professor Macdonald says the Mount Druitt Men's Shed, a partnership between the MHRIC, Western Sydney University and local service providers, is a good example of a flexible drop-in centre designed with the clients in mind.

"Run by Aboriginal men and supported by elders, the Mount Druitt Men's Shed is an informal medical, legal and social service centre for locals who may lack the means and inclination to seek help in a formal setting," says Professor Macdonald.

"By providing access to service providers in a friendly, non-judgemental setting, we can help encourage people in need to seek help before they arrive at a crisis."

Men's Health Week is the perfect opportunity for men in Australia to sit down with their workmates and friends and have a chat about life. Hundreds of local events, from barbeques to special sporting matches, will be held from June 12 – 18.

This year's theme, Healthy Body, Healthy Mind: Keeping the Balance, is encouraging men across Australia are being urged to take the time to enjoy the things in life that make them happy.

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