The Problems

The scale of the global challenge in men’s health

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study has revealed the extent of the health problems facing men around the world.

From 1970 to 2010, female life expectancy at birth increased from 61.2 to 73.3 years, whereas male life expectancy rose from 56.4 to 67.5 years. These figures indicate that the gap in life expectancy at birth widened between the sexes to men’s disadvantage over those 40 years. By 2010,  globally, women were outliving men by an average of almost six years.

The male:female life expectancy gap is predicted to widen further by 2030 – by then, male life expectancy is expected to reach 78.1 years and female 85.3 years, a difference of 7.2 years.

Global healthy life expectancy at birth also increased for both sexes in the period 1990-2010, by 3.9 years for men and 4.0 years for women to 58.3 years and 61.8 years respectively. Although women lost more years to disability than men in the 20 years to 2010, overall the gains were greater for women and the gap between the sexes widened.

In 2010, healthy life expectancy for males at birth was below 50 years in 33 countries compared with 18 countries for females. Male healthy life expectancy was higher than female in only three countries out of 187.

4.25 million men died in 2010 as a result of tobacco smoking compared to 1.44 million women. 3.14 million men died because of alcohol use compared to 1.72 million women. 5.14 million men also died from dietary risk factors – such as low fruit and vegetable intake and eating too much processed meat – compared to 4.18 million women.

Out of 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters identified in the GBD study, 60 were responsible for more male than female deaths and the top 10 risk factors were more common in men.

Morbidity and mortality from non-communicable diseases (eg. cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes) are now becoming much more significant globally. Men are more likely to be affected by these conditions, and often at a younger age. This requires a response that takes full account of the role of gender in order to optimise the impact of prevention efforts and the potential for early diagnosis.

Men’s health is not properly addressed in the health policies and programmes of the major global health institutions, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO).