Europe’s Black Hole: Deaths Among Men of Working Age Double Those of Women

17/06/2011 00:35:00

IT Carlow’s Dr Noel Richardson, Ireland’s contributing author to the forthcoming The State of Men’s Health in Europe report and a board member of The European Men’s Health Forum, warns of serious consequences for society if new statistics are ignored.

The European Men’s Health Forum is today warning that unless a fundamental change is made in the whole approach taken to men’s health, the EU will suffer both socially and economically.

The Forum was responding to the EU-commissioned The State of Men’s Health In Europe report, due to be launched in the European Parliament on 14th June.  The report brings together the official epidemiological data from across Europe and across all major disease areas from cancer and heart disease to mental health.

Dr Noel Richardson of the Institute of Technology Carlow, Ireland’s contributing author to the report, said: ‘For the first time we have a clear picture of men’s health across the EU.  Previously we had a series of partial pictures by country or disease area. This brings it all together so that policy-makers at all levels across Europe can see exactly what they’re dealing with and learn from each other’.

The Report shows that every year twice as many men of working age (16-64) die as women with some 630,000 male and 300,000 female deaths across the EU27 countries in this age group. If current projections are correct, there will be a reduction of nearly 24 million working age men across the EU by 2060.  The Forum is calling for this group of men to be explicitly targeted.
EMHF President Ian Banks explains: ‘Older people are living longer. The great black hole is men of working age, where we’ve seen very little improvement in the death rates in recent years. We need a wide-ranging and fundamental change in policy. This is the group we need to be targetting.’

The Irish statistics make alarming reading.  According to Dr Richardson, ‘Men in Ireland have higher death rates than women for all the leading causes of death and at all ages and Irish men’s life expectancy is approximately 5 years lower than women’s.  Deaths from suicide and road traffic accidents are four to six times higher in young men than in young women and obesity levels among Irish men have tripled in the last 20 years, making male obesity a public health time bomb.

‘The current economic recession is having a further detrimental impact on the mental health and well-being of Irish men, particularly lower socio-economic group men – the recent increase in the rate of suicde is just the tip of the iceberg.  And yet, the report reveals that the vast majority of men in Ireland continue to rate their health as ‘good’ with men more likely to do so than women.  The implications of this misperception are potentially lethal for men’s health.’

The Report proves that lifestyle choices that men make in early life can have a profound impact on their health status in later life. ‘But’, according to Dr Richardson, ‘it is not enough to blame men – this report rightly places responsibility on policy-makers and politicians to consider the health implications of other policies such as environment, education, employment and housing if we are to have a real impact on improving men’s health.’  The Report says that the data proves men’s health disadvantage is an issue of inequity and not biological inevitability.

Dr Banks says, ‘The challenge for all of us working in healthcare is to find male-friendly policies that can change this in terms of information-giving, facilitating healthier choices, screening and access to services.  But it’s also about the bigger society, the wider socio-economic policies.  Men can’t make healthy choices if the work they do - or don’t do - and the social and economic structures within which they live prevent them.’

Let’s make no mistake, it can be done. To give one example, if every country had the accident rate of the Netherlands we’d save 100,000 lives a year.’

Men are dying prematurely but the rates at which they do this vary enormously from country to country and even within countries according to region or social group. This is evidenced by the massive differences in male life-expectancy: just 66 years in Latvia compared to 80 in Iceland, for example – a 21% longer life.

The Report makes a strong business case for keeping men alive. ‘This is not just about health,’ says Dr Richardson. ‘Premature male death undermines the economy, undermines families, undermines women and their health and undermines our social security and health services.’

‘With a declining birth rate across Europe, most countries will have far fewer men of working age in the years to come so if we’re to succeed economically we need them to be in decent health.’
About Dr Noel Richardson and the Centre for Men’s Health at IT Carlow

Noel is Director of the Centre for Men’s Health at IT Carlow - the only dedicated Centre for men’s health research in Ireland. The aim of the Centre is to develop innovative and applied research programmes in the area of men’s health through the development of partnerships with key stakeholders. In doing so, the Centre seeks to raise the public profile of men's health issues, and to contribute to effective and gender-competent policy and practice on men’s health in Ireland.