Men’s Health and Safety


Men’s health and safety lags behind that of women’s in several areas. Men are more likely to die from heart disease, stroke, cancer, infectious diseases, accidents, suicide, and homicide. Consider these statistics for the United States:

  • Males have a higher overall mortality rate than females at all ages (roughly 1.6 times greater). This mortality ratio is roughly the same as that between blacks and whites. Also, men have higher mortality rates for the top 10 causes of death [1][2]
  • In particular, males have a suicide rate roughly 4 times that of females – this ratio is 14 times greater for the elderly over 85 [3][4]
  • Men represent some 94% of workplace deaths annually as a result of being concentrated in the most hazardous professions [5]
  • Men are 3 times more likely to use illicit drugs, and 2 times more likely to be alcoholic [6]
  • Men have a life expectancy roughly 6 years less than women [7]
  • The disparity in longevity is greatest for black and Native American men
  • In 1920, this difference in life expectancy was only 1 year, which implies that improvements in public health have disproportionately benefited women

In spite of these disparities in health and safety between men and women, public policy has concentrated on women’s health issues at the expense of men’s health. For example:

  • There is an Office of Women’s Health in the U. S. federal government, but no Office of Men’s Health
  • While most funding at the National Institutes of Health is non-gender specific, some 10% of this funding is for women’s health, with only 5% given to men’s health
  • In particular, funding for prostate cancer research receives less than half the funding that breast cancer receives, even though both diseases have roughly equal mortality rates

Given the interdependent nature of the sexes on health issues, surely it would be beneficial to society as a whole if men’s health and safety were taken as seriously as women’s health and safety. Greater advocacy, research, and information in this area are much needed.

Circumcision of infant boys is a related area of concern to men’s advocates [8]. It is now questionable whether the benefits of circumcision are worth the risks. As the practice of genital mutilation of girls is forbidden, boys should at least get the chance to make a choice for themselves, when they are old enough to make an informed decision.

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© 2003 by Steven G. Van Valkenburg.  Adapted from “What is the Men’s Movement” by Trudy W. Schuett.  Content used with permission of the author.