Hopefully, the rugged beard I’ve been sporting will motivate at least one of my fellow men to take better care of his health this November. Every November, you see, two charitable organizations, Movember and No-Shave November, raise funds by encouraging men to not cut or shave their facial hair. Both organizations have made November an enjoyable month for we men to share photos of our thickening mustaches, beards and other long hair. The idea is to get men thinking and talking about mental health, suicide prevention, prostate, testicular and colon cancer, and other illnesses affecting men.
According to a December 2022 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men live, on average, about six years fewer than women. There are a number of reasons why, explains HuffPost, and they don’t include any men jokes. For starters, several studies show men are less likely to talk about their health and more likely to deny anything is wrong. Avigail Lev, a licensed clinical psychologist in California, explained to HuffPost that because men are conditioned by society to deeply repress and suppress their emotions, they avoid seeking support for health issues, even when they need it.
Too often, we put off colonoscopies and prostate tests — limiting our doctors’ ability to detect and correct cancer in its earliest stages. We ignore symptoms, pretending nothing is wrong — giving whatever it is free reign to get worse until something really is wrong. We think it isn’t masculine to engage a counselor when we are suffering a bout of depression — which is one reason why 60 men die from suicide worldwide every hour of every day.
Too often, men self-medicate their medical problems or worries away through destructive social behaviors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs — habits that destroy good health. Add to that, men are more likely to make poor dietary choices — for example, fast food that is loaded with artery-clogging fats — and it becomes clear why male health is so much worse than it needs to be.
But we can and must do better on the men’s health front — and every other front. Men and boys are struggling in our country like never before. It’s wonderful that so many of our girls are flourishing in school and the workforce, but our boys are falling behind at alarming rates.
New York Times columnist David Brooks cites the statistics: “By high school, two-thirds of the students in the top ten percent of the class, ranked by GPA, are girls, while roughly two-thirds of the students at the lowest decile are boys.” Brooks notes that men are struggling in the workforce — if they’re working at all. One in three men with only a high school diploma — 10 million men — is now out of the labor force.
Men are increasingly isolated with far fewer friends than women, according to an American Perspectives Survey, leaving them with much less support to navigate the growing life and health challenges they face.
The great hope for all good people is for all of us to flourish regardless of our age or sex. We all hope that our dads, uncles, brothers and sons become the healthiest, most productive people they can be. Maybe seeing a face with a new mustache or beard this November will spark the robust discussion we need to help men improve their health and realize their full potential as flourishing human beings.
Copyright 2023 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com.