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Men's problems

October 29, 2010

A new study has found that German men are more prone to stress, depression, heart attacks and suicide - and have a life-expectancy over five years shorter than women. Traditional gender attitudes could be to blame.

Man with a doctor
The study found that men are more wary of doctors than womenImage: Fotolia/Monkey Business

A new government-commissioned study conducted by the German Society for Man and Health (DGMG) and the Men's Health Foundation, was released on Thursday, nearly a decade after a ground-breaking report on women's health was conducted in 2001.

Speaking at its launch, Family Affairs Minister Kristina Schroeder said it was high time: "A men's health report is vitally necessary, because we still have a difference in life expectancy between men and women of 5.5 years."

Family Minister Kristina Schroeder
Kristina Schroeder said the study was urgently neededImage: dapd

One of the main causes for concern is the heart. Men suffer heart-related problems much earlier and more frequently and more seriously than women. Dr. Ursula Mueller-Werdan, a cardiologist at the Halle University heart clinic, spoke of the significant differences.

"Heart attacks manifest themselves about 15 years earlier in men than in women," she said. "Men often have unhealthy cardiovascular risk profiles in younger years. That means, for example, high blood pressure well before the age of 55."

Doctor-shy men

The causes are manifold, but the study identified one particular social difference that can cause problems. Men are much less likely to take their ailments to the doctor, and so serious problems often go unnoticed for too long. On top of this, only two out of 10 German men go to the doctor for precautionary check-ups.

Elmar Braehler, professor of medicinal psychology at the University of Leipzig says men simply need to get over their fears.

"Women are used to going to the gynecologist, they go for contraception, for pregnancies," he said. "Men are scared of what the doctor will find, and tend to avoid doctors. They see it as part of their social role that they have to show they are healthy."

A man sitting on a bench, hanging his head
Men are more likely to keep depression to themselvesImage: Bilderbox

The study also concluded that men are more likely to let psychological problems go untreated. Three times as many men commit suicide than women, even though only half as many men are diagnosed with depression than women.

Male menopause

But this finding simply confirmed a relatively commonly held theory. The study also highlighted a less well-known problem - that of male menopause. Dr. Stefan Kowalik believes that while hormone problems are routinely treated in women, they are too often ignored in men.

"Hormone disorders are not just important for sexuality," he said. "The male hormone, testosterone, is also important for blood production, bone production, muscle production. A lot of people don't even know that."

German state health insurance only pays for male check-ups over the age of 55, and one of the study's recommendations is the introduction of check-up programs for young men, but old-fashioned attitudes need to be changed first.

Author: Ben Knight
Editor: Chuck Penfold