A Look at Men’s Health Issues This Movember
What is Movember and Why Does It Matter?
In 1999, 30 men in Australia began the tradition of growing mustaches in November. They were then inspired to turn their mustaches into symbols for prostate and testicular cancer awareness like the pink ribbon promotes breast cancer awareness. By 2004 this evolved into the Movember Foundation charity, which facilitates events in November that promote men’s health causes including mental health and suicide prevention, and prostate and testicular cancer awareness. Other countries including the United States, Ireland, Canada, Denmark, Israel, South Africa, Taiwan, El Salvador, Israel, Spain, and the Czech Republic joined the movement in 2007 and have since begun hosting events promoting the importance of men’s health. By 2012, the Movember Foundation became one of the world’s top 100 non-governmental organizations and has now raised over $800 million dollars in 1,320 projects in over 20 countries. There are currently almost 7 million Movember members, and its mission of changing the face of men’s health continues to transform lives.
By using mustaches as a visual awareness tool, Movember aims to encourage and remind men to:
- Seek mental health support
- Research their family medical history
- Have annual screening exams for depression and cancer
- Get diagnosis and treatment for mental health and medical symptoms as quickly as possible
Early detection of mental and physical health symptoms makes a significant difference in treatment options and recovery outcomes. Participating in screening for prostate and testicular cancers reduces preventable cancer deaths.
A Dive into Men’s Health Statistics
A dive into men’s health statistics reveals that men are significantly less likely than women to seek preventative care and to report mental and physical health symptoms to their healthcare professional. Because early detection significantly influences treatment and recovery outcomes, it’s important to increase men’s comfort with initiating care and consistent follow-through with treatment. Statistics about men’s mental health reveal that:
- 31% are depressed in their lifetime
- 9% have daily feelings of depression or anxiety
- Only 25% share symptoms with a mental health professional and only 30% take medication
- Men die by suicide at nearly four times the rate of females and represent 80% of all suicides
- For every death by suicide, there are approximately 20 suicide attempts made
- Suicide is the 8th leading cause of death among men in the U.S.
Regarding physical health:
- Only 60% have a routine annual exam
- 40% only see a healthcare provider if their symptoms are severe
- 20% only initiate health care at their significant other’s insistence
- 11.5% of those under 65 don’t have healthcare coverage
- 14% over 18 are in fair or poor health
- Under 30% meet the CDC’s guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity
- 30% have had at least one episode of binge drinking in the past year
- 13% smoke cigarettes
- 51% high blood pressure or need medication to regulate their blood pressure
- 42% are obese
- 11.5% of men under 65 don’t have healthcare insurance
- The mortality rate for men in 80% of the leading causes of death is 41% higher than for women
- Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths
Athletes and Health: The Struggles Behind the Spotlight
Many pressures and stigmas influence male athletes and their well-being. They often struggle behind the spotlight without the support they deserve, partly due to their appearance of mental and physical invincibility. But instead of experiencing fewer stressors than most, they are at higher risk for physical and psychological injuries due to the dangers of playing, their highly competitive environment, and constant exposure to public scrutiny. Physical injuries and illnesses adversely affect their ability to perform and therefore the public’s perception, which may impact their mental health for the worse. In turn, struggling with mental health symptoms can reduce confidence and fitness and increase their risk of physical injury.
These risk factors can be transformed by caring for each athlete as a whole person. This means offering the highest level of care possible to treat injuries quickly and effectively, checking in regularly about mental health symptoms, and making the team a safe space to share emotions, concerns, and fears. Coaches and other staff members can normalize and support open communication and the importance of paying attention to mental and physical health symptoms that arise. They should be well equipped to offer support and resource referrals that are specialized for men.
The Broader Picture: Men’s Health Awareness Across the Spectrum
The broader picture of men’s health awareness across the spectrum shows there is much room for improvement in every realm including mental, physical, and reproductive health. The ultimate mission of Movember is to increase the quality of conversation and actions about all men’s health issues. The leading causes of death for men in the U.S. are currently heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, pneumonia, and suicide. Many risk factors for those conditions are preventable or treatable, with guidance from a medical professional who can help men make lifestyle changes that improve their health.
The historical stigma around men being vulnerable and seeking care puts men at higher risk mentally and physically. Examples are the incidences of depression, suicidality, and erectile dysfunction among men who are embarrassed to seek treatment. Men in the highest risk group for depression and suicide, age 75 or above, were raised during a time of low mental health awareness.
Normalizing the need for support and care helps men of all ages take action to improve their well-being and decrease the risks associated with depression and suicidality. Many men are also reluctant to share sexual symptoms such as erectile dysfunction with a healthcare provider, even though 30 million men of all ages in the U.S experience it. This sexual symptom, along with others, can be a marker of serious illness and it deserves attention. Creating an open, comfortable environment for men to share their experiences and needs means that conditions such as depression, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer can be treated before they progress in severity.
Inspiring Change: Men’s Health Quotes to Reflect On
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to show weakness. Asking for help takes more courage than suffering alone.” – Terry Crews
“Your feelings are valid, your struggles are valid, and your mental health matters. You don’t have to go through it alone.” – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
“Real strength is not suppressing emotions, but being vulnerable enough to share them.” – Chris Evans
“Opening up doesn’t make you weak; it makes you human. It’s okay to let others in.” – Ryan Reynolds
“The strongest men are those who seek help, support, and understanding when they need it.” – LeBron James
“It takes immense strength to break the silence and share your struggles with someone you trust.” – Hugh Jackman
“Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Take care of both.” – Kevin Love
“The only way to shatter the stigma is by standing up and sharing our stories. Together, we can rewrite the narrative.” – Clarke Carlisle
The Power of Movember in Highlighting Men’s Health
Since 2003, Movember has grown from 30 men growing mustaches to over 6 million members around the world promoting the importance of men’s mental and physical health. Providing a platform for men to speak more freely and honestly about their experiences has helped transform a cultural norm of silence that harmed them in the past. Movember continues to be a powerful force in highlighting men’s health and the importance of creating a stronger community to meet their needs.