The study of the differences in the physiologies of men and women has produced significant advances in the area of women’s health. But in trying to correct decades of neglect, doctors may have shifted too much attention away from men.
Traditionally, men’s health has remained limited to crisis management. Men tend to ignore prevention or basic upkeep until a medical issue compels them to seek help. Society has come to expect this sort of mentality from men. Males assume the most difficult and life-threatening tasks without question. Men are taught to hide or even ignore their concerns. This “play through pain” mindset exists in more than just the sports arena.
In medical research, men have contributed the most and arguably benefitted the least. From the 1940s until the 1990s, men dominated clinical trials in order to protect women from unknown consequences. There were also practical reasons, as men don’t have cycling hormones that could affect results. As research restrictions began to relax, scientists discovered the stark differences between the sexes and developed the long overdue women’s health movement.
However, few scientists have analyzed the sex-specific data with the intentions of helping men. Males are far more fragile than society acknowledges. Mothers are more likely to miscarry male fetuses, and industrial countries are witnessing a decline in male to female birth ratios. Homicides and suicides are the most common causes of death in adolescent males. And most tellingly, men die six years sooner than women on average. Not only do few people find that fact surprising, no public effort exists to close the gap.
Men understandably are resistant to talk about these concerns. Society has conditioned them to remain silent in the face of anything that makes them uncomfortable. Right now, they don’t understand that opening up will benefit them. Doctors cannot treat patients they don’t see. From early ages, men should recognize that asking questions about their health and care will save their lives
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