Mental health tops the ranking as men’s greatest health concern

When it comes to their health concerns, men are primarily worried about their mental health and neglect opportunities to address their physical health needs, according to a new survey of nearly 1300 men from a nationally representative panel.

Results from the survey, published today in a research paper in Public Health Research & Practice, a peer-reviewed journal of the Sax Institute, show three of the top five preventive health issues of concern to men are related to mental health, with stress the most frequently cited as a priority, followed by depression and anxiety. The findings come in the lead-up to Men’s Health Awareness Month in November.

Worries about mental health are most pronounced in younger men (18–34 years), for whom loneliness is also a particular concern – an unexpected finding given the stigma around admitting to being lonely, which usually leads to underreporting this problem among young men, the authors say.

The findings “clearly imply that psychological and social issues should be given prominence in health promotion strategies for younger men in particular,” write the study authors from the University of Sydney and Healthy Male, a government-funded organisation that provides information about men’s health.

Men over the age of 65 tend to focus more on chronic conditions, with exercise, weight control, stress and erectile dysfunction as their top four priorities. This finding highlights an opportunity not only to promote sexual health but to increase recognition of erectile dysfunction as a marker for chronic disease, the authors suggest.

The survey also found men often neglect important preventive health issues. More than one-third of those surveyed do not rate regular exercise, weight control or fruit and vegetable consumption as important, and more than half (56.4%) do not think limiting their alcohol intake is a priority.

The findings suggest more than half of men do not find it important to use important preventive health services such as health checks and screening, and half (50.6%) don’t believe it’s important to see their GP annually. The study authors say their findings show the need to deliver primary health care in male-friendly ways that communicate and engage better with younger men, who are the least likely to be concerned about adopting preventive health practices. Adapting health services and messaging to middle-aged and older men to respond to their concerns is also important, they add.

Despite this, more than three-quarters of men said their doctor was the most useful source of information on health, followed by health agency websites, web browsing, their partners and family members.

The authors note men are twice as likely to die from preventable causes before the age of 75 years than women and that addressing preventable disease in men is a priority for the Australian Government, as outlined in its National Men’s Health Strategy 2020-2030. “The aim of our research was to look at what men prioritise when it comes to their health and use this information to build better ways of improving their engagement with preventive health services. We need to stop blaming men for their poorer health and empower them to manage it better,” says lead author Professor Ben Smith from the University of Sydney.

Men’s top 10 preventive health concerns

Issues men rated in their top-three health priorities were:

  1. Stress: 40.8% 
  2. Exercise: 33.5% 
  3. Depression: 31.9% 
  4. Weight control: 30.3% 
  5. Anxiety: 26.7% 
  6. Diet: 18.0% 
  7. Loneliness: 15.3% 
  8. Alcohol intake: 14.5% 
  9. Body image: 12.4% 
  10. Partner relations: 10.8% 

Please acknowledge Public Health Research & Practice as the source for any stories on our papers. The link to the paper on men’s preventive health concerns is