A new study has revealed that men are more likely than women to have health conditions that lead to premature death. This includes conditions such as heart disease, liver disease, respiratory diseases, and Covid 19. 

The Independent reports that the study was carried out by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington, USA published in The Lancet Public Health journal. The authors have called for national health plans and strategies to address the needs of men strategically.

Campaign groups in the UK, including the Men’s Health Forum (MHF), have been making similar calls for several years. There is already a national Women’s Strategy in place in England and Wales, but no equivalent strategy for men. This is a situation that campaigners and some health professionals find unfair and unacceptable. 

The campaigners argue that one man in five in the UK dies before the age of 65, and currently health services fail to educate, engage, and intervene on the subject of  men’s health problems at an early enough stage. This can mean that men die in greater numbers than women from preventable or treatable conditions. 

In the UK, 76 per cent of premature deaths from heart disease are men, and 75 per cent of all suicides are by males. Men were hospitalised and died from Covid in greater numbers than women, and are more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that about 15 per cent of men have untreated high blood pressure.

The MHF also claim that men are 32 per cent less likely than women to visit the doctor, although when they are retired men and women tend to visit the doctor in equal numbers. Nonetheless, many men find talking about their health problems difficult, even with close friends or family members.

This is especially true when it comes to intimate problems such as erectile dysfunction (ED). While it is understandable that men are reluctant to discuss such a personal issue with a stranger, ignoring ED can lead to much worse problems further down the line. 

This is because ED may be a sign of a more serious underlying health problem. This should not put men off from seeking treatment, but rather encourage them to speak to a health professional as soon as possible. Most of the time, the condition is likely to be treatable or reversible, such as high blood pressure or obesity. 

The penis relies on a good blood supply for normal sexual function, and the vessels supplying the penis are very narrow, so any problems affecting the arteries or circulation tend to show up here first. It has been suggested that a man’s penis is a ‘barometer of his health.’

If there is no related health condition diagnosed (or even if there is), oral medication such as sildenafil (the trade name for Viagra) or tadalafil (the trade name for Cialis) are usually offered as the first line of treatment. These drugs have been effective for about 80 per cent of men with ED, and have few side effects. 

Meanwhile, the researchers from the IHME suggest that a strategic approach is needed to improve men’s health on a global scale. This will not only benefit men but also have wider benefits for the whole of society.

It will potentially lead to a healthier working-age population with fewer people requiring sick pay and extra healthcare and less disease and disability in older people. It will also place less burden on carers, who are often female. 

The authors of the study noted that while men died sooner, women spent a greater portion of their lives living with non-fatal health conditions that limit their quality of life. Little has changed in this situation since the 1990s. 

Senior author Dr Luisa Sorio Flor, at IHME, University of Washington, USA, said: “This report clearly shows that over the past 30 years global progress on health has been uneven.”

She added: “Similarly, males are experiencing a much higher and growing burden of disease with fatal consequences. The timing is right for this study and call to action – not only because of where the evidence is now, but because COVID-19 has starkly reminded us that sex differences can profoundly impact health outcomes.”

ED medication such as tadalafil is available to buy without a prescription after a short consultation with a pharmacist.