“‘Being male is now the single largest demographic factor for early death,’ says Randolph Nesse of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.’ If you could make male mortality rates the same as female rates, you would do more good than curing cancer,’ he says. Nesse’s colleague Daniel Kruger estimates that over 375,000 lives would be saved in a single year in the US if men’s risk of dying was as low as women’s.” New Scientist Magazine, July 2002
If we apply Kruger’s national numbers to the state of Maryland (multiply by
.018, the percent of the US population residing in Maryland) we can estimate that 6750 Maryland men die each year due to their higher mortality rates than females. This means that one Maryland man dies every 80 minutes as a result of his being male. The sad fact is that according to age adjusted data from the Maryland Vital Statistics Annual Report 2007, our Maryland men and boys die earlier and more often from leading causes of death including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, accidents, suicide, and homicide.¹ The only leading cause of death out of the top 15 for which women outnumber men is Alzheimer’s Disease. The men simply don’t live long enough to outnumber women diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Being male has a huge impact on both our longevity and our state of health. Simply put, Maryland men live both shorter and sicker lives than Maryland females. We know that black males in Maryland live on average to be only 70.9 years old and white males live on average to about 76.9 years of age. Both black and white women outlive both black and white males with black females living on average 78.0 years of age while white females live to be 81.6.² It appears that one’s sex is a significant factor in longevity as it is in health.
Judging from these numbers, one would assume that there would be special programs focusing on the health of Maryland males. This is simply not the case. Our Maryland men are largely forgotten when it comes to services provided for gender-specific problems. An informal assessment performed by the Maryland Men’s Health Commission’s support staff of male-specific and female-specific health programs in Maryland showed that women have numerous programs for their unique health problems. Examples include a Breast and Cervical Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Program, a program for screening breast and cervical cancer, a Maternal and Perinatal Health Program and numerous others. There are special programs for women for family planning and for female victims of domestic violence. The state of Maryland had a program titled “Women Enjoying Life Longer” which focused on women’s wellness issues. Maryland also has a “Women’s Health Program” which is meant to assess and address health issues that commonly, uniquely, or disproportionately affect women throughout their lifespan. Many millions of dollars of Maryland’s budget directly support the programs identified above.
When we look to the men’s side of the equation, we see far fewer programs. The Commission’s informal assessment showed that there was one pilot program in Charles County for prostate screening and another that was funded by the Cigarette Restitution Fund (CRF). There are no Maryland programs for testicular cancer, no programs for prostate cancer, no programs for men who are depressed or suicidal (even though men comprise 80% of the suicide totals), no programs for men who are victims of violence even though men are murdered more than five times as often as women.3 What we found from this informal survey was that the health services provided specifically for men are very sparse when compared to those provided specifically for women.
The Maryland numbers are far from an aberration and are very similar to what we see on a national level. The US has multiple national commissions for women’s health and none for men. There has been a bill to create a men’s health act that has been sitting dead in committee for the last ten years. It simply can not get enough votes or interest to pass. You can see a national website womenshealth.gov for women’s health and another site girlshealth.gov specifically for girls. Both are paid for and sponsored by the US federal government. However, a search for menshealth.gov or boyshealth.gov uncovers only a “server not found” error. These sites simply do not exist. Looking internationally, you can see that this same bias of focusing on the health and well-being of women and girls and ignoring that of men and boys is common throughout the western world. The only western country that is aggressively addressing this issue is Australia, where legislators have been busy evaluating their present health system and its bias against boys and men and making significant adjustments. Hopefully, initiatives in states such as Maryland will cause our country and others to step forward like Australia and find compassion for both men and women, boys and girls.
Many experts agree that the bias we are describing exists but there is very little consensus on the likely cause. Many are pointing to the traditional roles of men as a possible factor.4 The men’s traditional role of “provide and protect” primarily sends resources to others while discouraging the utilization of those same resources by those who are doing the providing. This leaves men motivated to help and care for women and children but much less interested in being of help to men. We can see this play out as our largely male legislators have focused on issues of women’s health while ignoring those of men. Others point towards the relatively new ideas of evolutionary psychology that examine the men’s “dominance hierarchy”5 which compels men to strive for status by competing with other men. Males are therefore more likely to want to strive to serve women and children and thereby move up in status, but less likely to offer services to fellow competitors.
No matter the reasons behind this bias it is glaringly obvious to anyone who takes the time to investigate that men’s health issues are in serious need. This report will focus on a number of areas where Maryland men have been largely forgotten and the impact that this has had on men and boys. Recommendations will follow each individual section.
1. (2007). Maryland Vital Statistics Annual Report 2007. Table 38, Age-adjusted Death Rates per 100,000 Population for Selected Causes of Death by Race and Sex. Maryland 2007. http://mdpublichealth.org/vsa/doc/07annual.pdf
2. (2007). Maryland Vital Statistics Annual Report 2007. Table 7, Life Expectancy by Age, Race and Sex, Maryland 2007. http://mdpublichealth.org/vsa/doc/07annual.pdf
3. (2007). Maryland Vital Statistics Annual Report 2007. Table 42, Death and Death Rates for 15 Leading Causes, Maryland 2007. http://vsa.maryland.gov/doc/07annual.pdf
4. Farrell, W. (1993). The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are The Disposable Sex. New York: Simon & Schuster.
5. Moxon, Steven (2008). The Woman Racket: The New Science Explaining How The Sexes Relate at Work, at Play, and in Society. UK: Imprint Academic.
Tom Golden is the author or three books, Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing, The Way Men Heal, and Helping Mothers be Closer to Their Sons: UnderStanding the Unique World of Boys. Tom was the creator of the youtube channel Men Are Good and served as the vice chairman of the Maryland Commission for Men’s Health. He has been a therapist in private practice for over 30 years.