How men's lifestyles double their risk of an early death

A University of Sussex psychologist is one of the key authors of a major new report that reveals that death rates of men aged 16-64 is twice that for women in the same age range in the European Union.

In The State of Men's Health in Europe, produced by the European Men's Health Forum and launched in the European Parliament on 14th June, Dr Richard de Visser identifies how poor lifestyles and preventable risks are among the factors leading to high rates of premature deaths in men.

In particular, Dr de Visser looked at the effect of alcohol, drug use and sexual behavior.  He says: "Lifestyles are not simply the product of individual choice. Those who are in poor material and social conditions eat less healthily, exercise less and are more likely to smoke or misuse drugs. In the context of addressing premature mortality among men, there is a growing awareness of the need for lifestyle modification in early life among men engaged in damaging health behaviours."

The report shows that every year 630,000 men of working age die compared with 300,000 female deaths across the EU27 countries in this age group.

Dr de Visser's analysis found that poor lifestyles and preventable risk factors accounted for a high proportion of premature death and morbidity in men. There is a strong gendered dimension to lifestyle choices and risky behaviours that place men at higher risk of ill health, yet these need to be considered within the context of economic, social, environmental and cultural factors. In all Member States it was found that men who live in poorer material and social conditions are likely to eat less healthily, take less exercise, be overweight/obese,
consume more alcohol, be more likely to smoke, engage in substance misuse, and have more risky sexual behaviour.

Although there has been a steady reduction in smoking across Europe, the levels are still highest amongst poorer men and in the Eastern European countries. Alcohol consumption overall is higher in men than in women and men are considerably more likely to binge drink and to be exposed to alcohol-related harm. Though men have higher levels of physical activity than women generally, the majority of men in the EU do not meet recommended levels. Men tend to have less nutritiously balanced diets than women, with high levels of
dietary cholesterol and saturated fatty acids and lower levels of polyunsaturatedfat, carbohydrate, and fibre. These are  exacerbated by high salt consumption.

The EU-commissioned The State of Men's Health in Europe brings together the official epidemiological data from across Europe and across all major disease areas from cancer and heart disease to mental health. Its lead author, Professor Alan White of Leeds Metropolitan University, says: "For the first time we have a clear picture of men's health across the EU.  Previously we had a series of partial pictures by country or disease area. This now brings it all together so that policy-makers at all levels across Europe can see exactly what they're dealing with and learn from each other."

Men are dying prematurely but the rates at which they do this vary enormously from country to country and even within countries according to region or social group.

President of the European Men's Health Forum Dr Ian Banks says: "This is not just about health. Premature male death undermines the economy, undermines families, undermines women and their health and undermines our social security and health services.'    

"Europe will have far fewer men of working age in the years to come so if we're to succeed economically we need them to be in decent health."

Notes for Editors

By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Tuesday, 21 June 2011