Access to Health Services by Men
Work health & safety
The most dangerous, deadly and health diminishing work in Australia is overwhelmingly performed by men, so it is no surprise that males experience 70% of the burden of disease related to work related injury. Although the incidence of work related fatalities has decreased by about 25% over the last decade or so, nationally about 15 serious workplace injuries occur every hour and at least one work-related death occurs every other day with males accounting for 93% of all work related fatalities. Clearly more needs to be done to correct this parlous state of affairs.
Health service utilisation and heath seeking
Gender (masculinity) and gender socialisation (manhood) affords males a different experience of health and serves to both prescribe and limit their lives. For many, the gender-based characteristics of strength, resilience, independence, self-reliance, need for control, and problem-solving act as barriers to health-seeking. Cultural stereotypes also augment male reticence for seeking out screening and preventive health care.
Research suggests that many males have a functional view of health, not seeking help until the problem is shown to clearly impact on physical function. Many are disposed to self-monitoring, seeking information from different sources before coming to an informed decision about whether to seek help. They often display indirect health
information seeking, viewing friends, partners and other repositories as sources of health advice until function is clearly impaired, when they then seek professional help. A common consequence is lesser engagement with illness prevention and health promotion programs, and lower utilisation of health services, particularly for chronic disease, sexual and reproductive health and mental health.
Sexual & reproductive health
About one third of males report at least one sexual and reproductive health issue with erectile dysfunction, lower urinary tract symptoms and prostate disease being the most common. Prostate cancer is the fourth leading cause of
death for males and the second leading cause of cancer, yet many men have limited awareness of the prostate, its function or the range of conditions affecting it. There is still much public (and clinician) confusion regarding the utility of screening, investigation and treatment of prostate cancer; significant research is still required.
Sexually transmitted diseases are still common and responsible for significant long-term morbidity and mortality, mostly in males and particularly Aboriginal males. Sexuality, demographic and socio-economic characteristics together with frequency of other risky behaviours are key contributors.
Possible strategies to address sexual and reproductive health issues include education directed at the general public and health professionals; opportunistic enquiry about reproductive health as part of a general health assessment, including with older men; and encouraging general practitioners to initiate discussions with older patients about sexual health.