How is COVID-19 impacting men’s health?

“Young or old, rich or poor, men are TWICE as likely to die of COVID-19 than their female counterparts” – Men’s Health Forum

Several studies have shown that more men are dying from COVID-19 than women. Experts say part of the reason is that women tend to have stronger immune systems than men. Science News reports that the biological differences, driven by sex hormones and genes, may be guarding some women from the deadliest complications of the virus.

What are the other reasons impacting men’s health in 2020?

As part of Men’s Health Week, running until 21 June, we are raising awareness and looking at the behaviours and beliefs that have been specifically linked to men during the pandemic, putting men at higher risk of infection.

Men are more likely to downplay the severity of the virus. Nearly a quarter of men (24%) inaccurately believe coronavirus is ‘just like the flu’ compared with just 16% of women.

Men tend to engage in more risky behaviour such as ignoring physical distancing, and they do not take symptoms as seriously, which in turn can lead to a delay in seeking medical help.

Men are less likely to wash their hands, although most people have taken steps to protect themselves by improving their personal hygiene, e.g. by washing their hands frequently or using a hand sanitiser. It is reported that fewer men than women have taken this step (67% vs 74%).

Men in the UK are twice as likely as women to be admitted to hospital for conditions attributable to smoking (an estimated 6% vs 3% of all hospital admissions). This suggests that even though smoking rates have fallen in men in recent years, the legacy of previously higher levels of male smoking could be relevant to the differential impact of COVID-19.

Let me ask a question to the men reading this… What do you do when you are feeling low?

Maybe you can recognise a few of the following behaviours:
  • Working longer shifts
  • Consuming more alcohol
  • Withdrawing from people you care about
  • Behaving recklessly
  • Putting it to the back of your mind because ‘that’s what men do!’

We might not always be able to identify what we are feeling or have the words to describe our emotions, as this is a learnt behaviour that takes practise. Men especially may find it difficult to open up about their needs and anxieties and this can lead to a strain on their relationships.

Men also feel they have to display stereotypical male behaviour within society. We see it all the time in hero movies and if we look closer to home, we have male role models in our fathers, grandfathers, older brothers, and friends. Many of us grew up with stoic, emotionally distant men in our family, with a stiff upper lip and can fix any issues on his own.

Did you know that there are more suicides in construction than in any other industry?

Mates in Mind are a UK based charity working to address the stigma that surrounds mental health in all sectors with a particular aim at the construction industry. Our health and safety experts have a lot to say on this matter and more insight will be available shortly but for now we recommend that you check out the resources available from Mates in Mind surrounding ‘Managing mental health and COVID-19’.

If we were to ask that same question to a female, we usually expect a woman to say that they would share their worries or fears with a family member, a friend, or a support group. Our emotional state often dictates how we behave, with men and women handling emotions in quite different ways.

We are slowly understanding that ‘its ok to not to be ok’, but we need to continue spreading the message now more than ever as the world reaches its next stage of change during the pandemic, it is what we do about it that matters.

The Men’s Health Forum has some brilliant resources for their ‘Take Action on COVID-19’ Campaign for Men’s Health Week and they say it’s time to talk:

“It can be difficult to put how you’re feeling into words… but you can be strong without being silent. In fact, strength is often to be found in talking. Without words, too much stress can kill. Three-quarters of suicides (75%) are male.”

So as an employer what can you do?
  • take action to understand the virus
  • take action on social distancing
  • take action to make workplaces safe
  • take action to train your staff how to recognise specific health issues within men
  • take action to ensure you have the best resources to support your employees

Visit the Men’s Health Forum and sign up for online toolbox talks or Download award winning manuals on both Covid-19 and workplace stress.

Whether you are concerned about your own state of mind or that of a close friend or family member, the NHS have details of various helplines available 24/7. CALM is just one of these charities: Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35. Access Helpline details here.

Great training starts with a great conversation…

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