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Monday, 15 May, 2000, 22:52 GMT 23:52 UK
Health - how men suffer
pub drinker
Men's lifestyles open them to health risks
Historically, health drives have tended to focus on problems affecting women and children - with men's health provision described as a "low priority".

However, men are not only more prone to big killers like heart disease, but figures suggest that those in the most disadvantaged social classes are quickly falling even further behind.

Life expectancy
Men 72.3 years
Women 77.9 years
There is also an extra toll on men of suicide and accidents, particularly when young.

Campaigners have called for screening to pick up male diseases such as prostate cancer, and health messages which are more appealing to men.

Men currently can expect to live to just over the age of 72 on average. Women have always had the edge in recent history, now living until almost 78 years.

This is thought to be partly due to the healthier lifestyle in general of women, who historically drink and smoke less.

In addition, the female sex hormone oestrogen protects against heart disease until after the menopause.

Overweight and depressed

But men are far more likely to die young - they are more likely to get cancer between 15 and 24, more than three times more likely to die in an accident, and the same ratio applies to suicide.

Deaths per million (men/women)
Cancer (2674/2464)
Heart disease (2852/2652)
Accidents (226/159)
Suicide (109/30)
In their 30s and 40s, although women are more likely to die of cancer, heart disease deaths begin to take an extra toll.

Although slightly more women in England could be defined as "clinically obese", many more men fall into the "overweight" bracket overall.

Men also outstrip women in the drinking stakes - at all age groups, roughly double the percentage of men are drinking more than the recommended safe weekly limits.

And 50% more men in the 16-29 age bracket are taking drugs.

However, recent research suggests that while tobacco use in men is falling, it is rising in women, suggesting that the numbers of older women struck down with lung cancer could rise dramatically in the future.

And younger women are also drinking more than before, a reflection of a change in earning patterns as well as society's attitude in general.

The government's green paper on public health, "Our Healthier Nation", pledged to cut substantially the number of deaths from heart disease and cancer by the year 2010.

Research suggests that to do this, they will have to target not only simply men, but men from particular social classes and ages.

Class is important

Those in the most disadvantaged classes are, on average, likely to live only to the age of 70, while those in the top two classes make it to 75.

To have the most effect on men's health, boys and young men appear to be a key group to target, according to the forum, along with adult men who continue to smoke and the long term unemployed.

Taking health services to places where these people may be found - pubs and youth centres, for example - is one suggested answer.

Women have traditionally always been more interested in their health, and more likely to seek help for any problems.

The problem for the health service is getting the other 50% interested as well.

See also:

15 May 00 | Health
Men's health 'low priority'
10 Sep 99 | Health
New fathers get advice
02 Mar 00 | Health
1m for prostate cancer research
29 Feb 00 | Health
Men 'don't seek medical help'
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