Fighting myths around men and their health

Male employees more interested in wellness than you might think
By Sophie McCann
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/05/2012

Health information is omnipresent in our daily lives — on TV, the radio, online and in the newspapers. Because women have been the primary caregivers for as long as we can remember, most of that health information is intended for women. And many people feel men are notorious for ignoring their health.

Don’t buy into that myth. Men are concerned about their health and employers should change the way they provide health information to employees, especially men. They are engaged in the decision-making process and ready to take action, according to a 2011 Angus Reid survey sponsored by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Amgen that sheds some light on myths around men and their health.

Myth: Men don’t care about their health

Contrary to popular belief, 78 per cent of Canadian men aged 20 to 55 said their health was extremely or very important to them. For them, being healthy was mostly associated with feelings of happiness, being in control and optimism. That being said, we can still see a dissonance between “believing” and “taking action.” Despite the importance of health and the positive feelings men associate with it, only one-half of them take concrete actions to live a healthy lifestyle, found the survey of 1,008 respondents.

Myth: Men don’t like to read health-related articles

While the sports pages may remain their first love, 59 per cent of men aged 20 to 55 want to learn more about how to live a healthy lifestyle. They turn to a wide range of sources to become more knowledgeable, ranging from health-care professionals — physicians, pharmacists and nurses — to family, friends, the Internet, TV, print media and co-workers.

Myth: He’ll be on his deathbed and still won’t see a doctor

When it comes to visiting their doctors, 58 per cent of the men surveyed reported they have seen a doctor within the last six months. Of these, 38 per cent weren’t even sick — they went for a routine physical examination. Though some of the men consulted with their doctors regarding symptoms they experienced, the length and severity of their symptoms did not seem to be a factor in their decision to book an appointment.

In fact, of those who consulted with their physician in the last six months, only 25 per cent reported their symptoms were extremely or very severe before they picked up the phone.

Myth: Men are resigned to being sick

More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of the men surveyed agreed getting sick is a natural part of life. However, 81 per cent feel seeking treatment early helps keep an illness from getting more serious. Moreover, 73 per cent would do whatever it takes to speed up their recovery process if they got sick, with 67 per cent saying they would try to learn more about their illness.

Myth 5: He won’t call to make an appointment

Although it is believed spouses frequently complain their partners only see a doctor if someone else makes the appointment, 70 per cent of men disagreed. Canadian men aged 35 to 55 feel they are proactive about getting better when they are sick. They are more likely than those aged 20 to 34 to feel getting treatment early helps keep a problem from becoming more serious and they will do whatever it takes, including calling for an appointment themselves, to speed up the recovery process.

Men and women have different health problems and, therefore, look for different information. Employers should provide targeted health information and programs geared to specific audiences. Heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men.

Here are some examples of initiatives that can take place in the workplace:

Lunch and learn: Ask a local nurse, pharmacist or physician to give a lecture on blood pressure, prostate or testicular cancer, erectile dysfunction, liver disease, gout, ankylosing spondylitis or similar topics.

Plan a casual day: Invite colleagues to wear jeans to work in exchange for a small donation. All money would be donated to a charity aimed at improving men’s health.

Wall posts: Set up a wall, similar to a Facebook wall, in a high-traffic area and invite employees to write on the wall and give examples of what they have done to improve or maintain their health.

Healthy cooking demonstration: Ask a local dietician to demonstrate healthy recipes that would appeal to men such as healthy burgers, chicken fingers or chili.

Sports: Organize a pickup game of basketball, or some other sport, outside during lunch hour.

These initiatives are easy to organize and require little financial investment. However, they should not stop at the end of the month. Companies should look into implementing a year-round, company-wide program that involves a steady stream of initiatives that empower employees to take charge of their cardiovascular health, reduce risk factors and embrace a healthy lifestyle. Changing habits, changing lives, will take time — make it one of your company’s priorities.

Sophie McCann is a Montreal-based freelance corporate writer. For more information, visit www.pfizer.com or www.amgen.com.

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