By DEBBIE H. FLEMING
Special to The State Journal
During the early 1900s, the average life expectancies for men and women in the United States were only a year apart. With improved sanitation, medical knowledge and overall better health care, the life expectancy for both genders has increased dramatically.
However the gap between men and women also began to widen so that by the 1990s women lived an average of seven years longer than men. In 2004 the gap had narrowed slightly, but women still live 5.2 years longer, according to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that men have a higher rate of death for all of the 10 leading causes of death. With the exceptions of Cerebrovascular disease, diabetes and pneumonia/flu mortality from these 10 causes are twice as high in men. Mens Health Network (MHN), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting mens health and the health of their families, has labeled this disparity the Silent Health Crisis.
While the ratio of male to female births is 105 males to 100 females, by the age of 35 there are more women than men. While it is a well-documented statistic that the life expectancy of men is less than that for women, the reasons for this disparity may not be as clear. The highest rate of mortality for men occurs between the ages of 15 and 24. It is believed that risk taking and suicide among boys accounts for the disparate rate in this age group.
Other reasons responsible for the higher male mortality rate range from the types of occupations that men choose to their lack of healthy lifestyle behaviors. Men are less likely to have healthcare coverage, less likely to visit a healthcare provider for disease prevention and more likely to be employed as firefighters, miners or construction workers. Our society discourages boys and men from engaging in healthy lifestyles while encouraging risk taking behaviors such as driving while not wearing a seatbelt and tobacco use at an early age.
The disparity in mortality affects our entire culture. Families are often left without their primary breadwinner. According to the U.S. Administration on Aging and The New York Times Magazine women make up 80 percent of the nine million elderly people living alone. Over half of the elderly widows living in poverty were not poor before the death of their spouse.
In 1994 to help raise awareness about mens health, Congress issued a proclamation that was signed by former President Bill Clinton naming the week before Fathers Day as National Mens Health Week or NMHW. To encourage men to visit their healthcare providers for routine exams, the Franklin County Health Department is sponsoring a Mens Health and Wellness Day from 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 13.
Health screenings to detect cancer, blood sugar elevations and cholesterol will be offered. In addition information on exercise and diet and nutrition counseling will also be available. There are limited openings still available so please call 564-7647 to make an appointment.
Debbie Howes Fleming is the health education director with the Franklin County Health Department. For more information about column topics or to contact her or the FCHD Community Health Education team, call 564-5559 or visit the websites FCHD.org.