Men in Northern Ireland are risking their lives by ignoring early health warnings, the British Medical Association (BMA) warned today.
To counter this, the BMA is working with the Men’s Health Forum in Ireland to challenge men here to take charge of their health. This challenge has been laid down to promote Men’s Health Week, which starts today.
The key theme for Men’s Health Week 2009 is ‘Men and access to services’ — aimed at encouraging men here to stop ignoring health problems and to seek help sooner rather than later. It is also hoped to encourage health service providers to reflect on the type of services that are likely to be more amenable to men.
Dr Ian Banks, BMA spokesman on men’s health issues and president of the European Men’s Health Forum, said: “Men must get in touch with their doctor as soon as possible if they have any concerns about their health.
“It is a real concern to doctors that men delay going to their GP when they feel ill. This leads to the late diagnosis of serious medical conditions. Getting treatment at an earlier stage could result in an improved long term outcome for certain diseases such as diabetes or testicular cancer.”
Noel Richardson, chairman of the Men’s Health Forum in Ireland, said men need to change their attitude about seeking help for medical complaints.
He said: “Being sick or going to the doctor should not be seen as a personal weakness or unmanly. The consequences of not getting treatment at an early stage could be critical.
“Men need to challenge themselves to take charge of their health and visit their GP now instead of leaving things until it’s perhaps too late.”
Statistics reflect the grave state of men’s health in Northern Ireland, with male life expectancy almost five years lower than female life expectancy.
Young men, aged between 18 and 35, are almost four times as likely to die earlier than women in the same age bracket.
With relation to illnesses, there are 14% more cancer cases in men than women — leading to 40% more deaths, with lung cancer being the most common. In the last 10 years, rates of prostate cancer have increased by 46%, while testicular cancer has risen by nearly 58%. In addition, almost 1,500 men die from heart disease each year.
The suicide rate for men in Northern Ireland is also a cause for concern, with 18.3 cases per 100,000 in comparison to 5.6 cases per 100,000 in women. And in relation to legal drugs, men drink about three times as much alcohol than women, experiencing greater adverse consequences, while the smoking prevalence amongst men is 28%.
The figures have prompted the BMA to lay down a series of challenges, including visiting a GP and getting health worries checked out, among other advice.