Male Mental Health and Social Isolation
Poor psychological health is associated with increased risk of chronic disease, poorer lifestyle choices, higher rates of physical illness, lower education attainment, lower productivity and income, poorer personal relationships, social isolation and general reduced quality of life. Men suffer a significant burden of mental illness, which over the life course affects just under half of the Australian male population; about 1 in 6 males report experiencing a mental illness in the previous 12 months. The most commonly reported disorders are anxiety and depression, substance
use disorders and affective disorders. Males account for three quarters of completed suicides nationally which equates to about four suicides per day, a continuing and alarming statistic.
Males in rural and remote regions, particularly young men, are more likely to commit suicide than their urban counterparts and are less likely to have sought professional help prior to the act. This suggests that mental health disorders in males may be under-recognised, under-diagnosed and under-treated. Accordingly mental health remains a key target for improvement with regard to men’s health.
The male experience of social inclusion as well as social control and cohesiveness are also important determinants of social and emotional wellbeing, health and longevity. There are a number of studies demonstrating that the absence of meaningful social relationships poses health risks comparable to factors such as smoking, alcohol, high cholesterol, poor diet and lack of exercise. Links have been demonstrated between low social support and rates of depression and suicide. Older, retired, single (including separated and widowed men) and rural men are at particular risk. Screening for indicators of social isolation and strategies that promote socialisation for at-risk men ( e.g. through service clubs, men’s sheds) may be just as important a strategy for improving male health as are medical interventions.