You’ve no doubt noticed that in developed countries, women almost always have a higher life expectancy than men. Being a woman, it would seem, can add not just months but years to your life. Over at the Good Men Project — Macho Men Die Early — Hugo Schwyzer offers some thoughts on one of the reasons men die earlier, on average: many of them are simply “too macho” to seek out health care.
Schwyzer cites a recent Rutgers University study that found that men who had “traditional” (or outdated) ideas about gender roles were far less likely than their more progressive counterparts to seek out preventative health care. Schwyzer notes that women have only outlived men for the last century, coinciding with the advent of modern medicine. (Not to mention dramatic reductions in maternal mortality rates.)
Writes Schwyzer: “Men aren’t dying earlier because their bodies are inherently more frail than women’s. Men die earlier because of poor lifestyle choices, most of which are rooted in the destructive rules of traditional masculinity. Two of the most basic of those ‘man laws’ or ‘guy codes’: 1. Don’t display weakness and 2. Take risks.” He adds that macho culture is to blame for a disproportionately high number of men dying in car accidents, by suicide or overdose, and in violent acts. As men move into middle age, they might engage in fewer drag races, but that doesn’t mean that they’re any more likely to ask for help or adjust their habits to implement some much-needed changes to diet or exercise habits.
So where does this leave women? Often, it leaves them nagging a spouse to finally get around to booking that colonoscopy or getting a second opinion on that darkening mole. As sociologist Maggie Scarf once pointed out, one of the reasons that married individuals live longer than single individuals is because you have someone sleeping next to you who can ask, “What’s that thing on your ass?” But I think all of us with fathers, brothers, husbands, boyfriends and friends would benefit if men could learn to take better care of themselves.