A man reads a book on the couch with his family

We all need to talk about men's health

Thursday , 13 October 2022 by Jonathan Zouch

Southern Cross Healthcare is urging us all to talk to the men in our lives about their health and wellbeing.

According to the latest figures from Southern Cross’ Healthy Futures Report 2022, 14 per cent of men didn’t seek medical treatment the last time they felt unwell, and 21 per cent didn’t seek treatment for dental pain.

Chief Medical Officer for Southern Cross Healthcare, Matthew Clark, said that New Zealand men are not taking care of their health and wellbeing as well as they could be.

“The Healthy Futures 2022 Report reveals some worrying insights into men’s attitudes to health and wellbeing. The ‘grin and bear it’ attitude is still an issue when it comes to New Zealand men taking their health seriously,” said Clark.

The biennial Healthy Futures Report, first released in 2020, has now surveyed more than 5,000 people to shine a light on the nation’s health and wellbeing. The study analysed New Zealanders’ physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing by examining indicators such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, relationships, stress, travel, work-life balance and social connection.

In particular, the report yielded some concerning insights into men’s attitudes to mental and emotional wellbeing, with 20 per cent of men saying they do not prioritise their mental health, compared with only 12 per cent of women.

When asked about ways that men look after their emotional wellbeing, 20 per cent said they would not consider talking to a friend or family member, an increase of three per cent since 2020. Only 18 per cent said they connect with like-minded people – down five per cent since 2020. Compare these figures with the same responses for women, which were 12 and 25 per cent respectively, and a clear difference emerges.

“These results indicate that, despite the attitude shift in recent times, New Zealand men are reluctant to have conversations about mental and emotional health and wellbeing,” said Clark.

“Unfortunately, men in New Zealand still believe in bottling up emotions and keeping things to themselves. For example, it’s thought that men are just as likely as women to experience mental health concerns such as depression, but they are much less likely to ask for help,” he added.

Jonathan Dixon, Managing Director for Raise, a Southern Cross joint-venture partner, says that Raise as an organisation sees approximately 10 to 15 per cent fewer referrals from men than women.

“We also notice that men are more likely to have a more moderate to severe presentation as it typically takes men longer to reach out for support,” added Dixon.

With Father’s Day and Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) in September, as well as Movember, the month-long moustache-growing event to raise awareness about men’s health issues, coming up in November, now is an ideal opportunity to talk to the men in your life about their health and wellbeing.

“Friends and whānau play an important role in providing support. This is true when someone is unwell, but also to create a safe space for open conversations if anyone has concerns such as seeing a change in behaviour or something physical,” said Clark.

Dixon agrees. “We are constantly reviewing methods of support for men and have found that a proactive approach is often more helpful. Encouraging men to reach out is a good thing and using Father’s Day or Mental Health Awareness Week as a reminder can help raise the topic for discussion,” he said.

While it can be uncomfortable to have these sorts of conversations with the men in our lives, taking the time to talk about medical concerns and mental wellbeing could help them live healthier lives for longer.