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What’s happening with men’s health in Canada?

June 17, 2020 • read

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What’s happening with men’s health in Canada?

There’s a gender gap when it comes to health — and men should be paying close attention. On average, Canadian men live four years less than Canadian women do. They’re also more likely to die from diabetes, heart disease and liver disease. So let’s take a deeper dive to find out what’s going on with men’s health in Canada, and discuss some simple health tips for men.

Health facts for Canadian men

When it comes to health issues, men just aren’t taking care of themselves as well as women do. While many Canadians report fairly high levels of stress, men are less likely than women to engage in healthy lifestyle behaviours to counteract it. In fact, more than half of Canadian men aren’t getting enough sleep, aren’t exercising enough and aren’t eating as healthy as they should.

It likely doesn’t come as a shock that 35 percent of Canadian men aren’t getting the six to nine hours of sleep a night that they need. Lack of sleep increases our risk of both obesity and diabetes, so do yourself a favour and make sleep a priority. And most of us also need to work some more exercise into our day — 59 percent of Canadian men say they’re not reaching the 150-minute weekly minimum our bodies need to stay healthy.

Alcohol and health risks in Canadian men

Sleep and exercise aren’t the only areas of improvement, though. Even though Canadian women are drinking more than ever, they still have a long way to go before they catch up to men. A report on alcohol consumption in Canada suggests that while one in five women admits to risky drinking at least once a month, that number jumps to one in three when we look at men.

Like cigarettes, alcohol is carcinogenic. Heavy drinking increases the risk of developing certain types of cancer, including cancers of the liver, oesophagus and larynx. It can also lead to cirrhosis of the liver. No one is expecting men give up drinking completely — one to two drinks a day may even have a preventative effect in terms of heart disease. But like most things in life, moderation is key.

Healthy eating for men

Organic or not, eating five to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables a day lowers your risk of developing both heart disease and certain types of cancer. Unfortunately, many Canadian men aren’t getting the minimum number of servings. While almost 35 percent of women report eating five or more servings, only 22% of men report the same.

Healthy eating is important for you as an individual. For those of us who are parents though, it is part of the job. Making good dietary choices is crucial for helping your family to stay healthy, since your children are watching you. Being exposed to a healthy diet in childhood will lead to your kids making healthier choices for themselves in the long-term. So make sure your whole family is getting their 5-10 a day.

The protective benefits of strong social bonds

Staying healthy means paying attention to more than just your physical body — it involves your emotional and mental health, too. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, by the time Canadians turn 40, half of us will have had or will be experiencing a mental illness or addiction. Dealing with these difficult issues requires support — from family, friends and community. Stereotypical ideals of the “strong, silent” man, however, can make men feel like they shouldn’t talk about their feelings. So they can be left isolated, with no one to talk to about what is troubling them.

Narrow and outdated ideas around what men “should do” can prevent men from developing intimate relationships where they feel free to share their feelings and experiences. Strong social support can be a protective factor when it comes to suicide prevention, and indeed the suicide rate for Canadian men is three times higher than for women, with those aged 40-59 most likely to die from it. Divorced men are almost twice as likely to commit suicide as married men. 

Be alert to the signs and symptoms of depression and other mental health issues. And take stock of your support system — meaningful relationships and supports help prevent a host of issues. But if you’re not comfortable sharing with friends, you can always speak to your doctor or a therapist.

Healthy lifestyles mean healthier living for men

Not only do Canadian women typically live longer than men, men also have fewer years of good health. The lifestyle choices we make as young people follow us throughout our lives. Smoking, heavy drinking and inactivity will often cause health trouble later on. Our statistics show that for men, healthier living needs to become more of a priority. You will thank yourself for it later, since simple lifestyle changes can help to prevent a host of issues.

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