Actionable Awareness and Insight for Men’s Health

By: Jennifer Jones, MSM RD, Population Health Practice Leader

June 9, 2021
Men’s Health Month was established in 1992 to heighten the awareness of preventable health issues while encouraging early detection and treatment of disease. But when it comes to taking care of themselves, men fall significantly behind women.

Experts believe this is likely due to a variety of factors, including not having a regular healthcare provider, delayed care, and engaging in more risky behaviors such as smoking and drinking heavily. As a result, we see men:

  • Shorter life expectancy than women (76 years vs. 81 years1)

  • Develop more chronic illnesses

  • Become more costly than women over time (PMPM)

Given these factors and the delayed care that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to evaluate the even greater risk men may now be exposed to and the potential financial impact. According to the Health in Aging Foundation, 40% of men said that when sick, they delay seeking medical care for a few days, and 17% percent said they would wait “at least a week.” Within this blog, we’ll explore two areas of the potential impact these delays in care could have on overall men’s health.


Men Hide from Their Mental Health Issues
Mental health is a key component of overall well-being, but until recently it was often overlooked as a negligible determinant of our health. Nearly 1 in 10 men experience depression or anxiety, but less than half are likely to seek treatment due to social norms, reluctance to talk, and downplaying symptoms.

In fact, 49% of men feel more depressed than they admit to people (including health care providers). This chronic undertreatment of mental health can lead to greater issues, including engaging in risky behaviors to cope with symptoms, decreases in productivity, and compliance with treatment of other chronic conditions.

Research has further shown that mental disorders are associated with an increased risk of a wide range of chronic physical conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and chronic pain. Given that men are more likely to develop chronic illnesses over time, it begs the question the role mental health plays with this risk.

Our book of business analysis of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health highlights increasing treatment rates of the top four mental health conditions (anxiety, depression, adjustment disorders, and alcohol-substance related treatment). We saw where women were treated 40% more often pre-pandemic, which grew to 50% more often during 2020. Specifically, the increase in mental health needs is primarily occurring with younger women. Men have not shown any upward trends for mental health conditions that we evaluated, despite the numerous surveys indicating ongoing mental health challenges of American workers.

Addressing the ongoing stigma of mental health among men will continue to be a priority and necessity knowing the role it plays in overall wellness:

  • Ensure accessibility to various forms of resources: mental health providers, online resources, telehealth, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), or point solutions

  • Ensure access to a wide variety of in-network providers

  • Educate on the impact of mental health with other chronic conditions and forgoing treatment of mental health conditions

  • Over-communicate mental health resources


Men Lag in Preventive Care
Our previous blog on men’s health focused on heart disease and cancer, specifically addressing the importance of completing recommended care metrics and cancer screenings to mitigate the risk of these top causes of death for men.

Despite having a higher risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer, men have a lower screening rate than women – 34.7% compared to 36.9%. Colonoscopies are one particular procedure that suffered significantly with delays in care during 2020; screenings have not yet caught back-up to the pre-pandemic rates, and men have been slower to catch up compared to women (women 5.2 per 1,000 vs. men 5.0 per 1,000).

An analysis of our book of business shows that men are 13% less compliant with overall preventive care metrics compared to women. The avoidance of annual care and evaluation can have long-term effects and impact on a man’s overall health. An online survey conducted among American men 18 years and older found that 72% would rather do household chores than make a trip to see a doctor. Only half consider an annual check-up a regular part of their self-care.

Despite the reason for avoiding care or seeing a doctor, we need to get more men participating in regular preventive care to identify health issues and risk at an earlier stage that can increase positive outcomes and help reduce the risk of cost going forward. While employers have promoted preventive care and screenings for years as part of wellness programs, it could further be helpful to consider the following in gaining improved compliance:

  • Promote the use of telehealth options when appropriate

  • Share/promote success stories of annual exams/cancer screenings

  • Find meaningful incentives for your population


Our mission at Springbuk is to prevent disease with data
. We encourage you to think about men’s health month differently this June and how you can best promote health with the men in your populations - and your lives.


MEET THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Jones, MSM RD, Population Health Practice Leader

Jennifer is an experienced healthcare professional with a background in clinical dietetics, wellness programming, and employer health. With over 15 years of experience, she has worked in various settings, including healthcare systems, occupational health organizations and health, and welfare benefits advisory firms. After working directly with patients and employees, Jennifer joined Springbuk, where she serves as the Population Health Practice Leader, and turned her focus to population and employer health to achieve a greater impact on health outcomes.