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Behavior that Affects Men’s Health


Causes of death for men and women are statistically different. Accidents, suicides and homicides are among the top 10 causes of death for men. For women, only one of these three, accidents, is in the top 10. Cancer, chronic lung disease and liver disease are among the top 10 causes of death for both genders, but are 1.5 times more prevalent in men. The primary causes for these diseases are smoking and drinking, behavior that’s a choice.

A Centers for Disease Control survey of American young people in 1999 showed that males were more likely than females not to wear seatbelts, to ride motorcycles and not wear helmets, to drink too much and to drink when driving, to abuse drugs, to carry weapons, to fight and to have unprotected sex.

Men and risky behavior
Many researchers seem to believe taking risks and acting on impulse are ways men more typically respond to feelings of stress, anxiety, anger and hostility. It’s still quite common for men to think that expressing their feelings and admitting weakness just aren’t okay. It’s better to look “macho” and to project the notion that you’re in control. So men are more likely than women to demonstrate road rage, to engage in domestic violence, to try to get the last word in during an argument, to grimace and clench their teeth.

Additionally, studies have shown that people who score highly on tests of anger and hostility have higher rates of heart disease, and heart disease is the number one killer of men. It’s the number one killer of women as well, but it seems to be more related to anger and hostility in men.

Calming down—for your health
Not all men are explosive fire balls, angry and hostile and ready to attack. We know this. But it’s a fact that men are more likely than women to engage in risky behavior and to demonstrate open anger and hostility almost reflexively. Nobody knows exactly why this is, whether it has to do with the male hormone testosterone or whether it dates from the time when men had to be at the ready to protect their families from wooly mammoths.

Clearly, men who learn to chill out and cool down are most likely to decrease their risk of dying from many of the things that are killing them now.

In order to make changes to the way they respond to life’s challenges, men need to know first of all whether they are experiencing dangerous degrees of anger and anxiety. Some of the signs that things are spinning out of control for you would include

  • Feeling overwhelmed by problems
  • Feeling rushed and hurried
  • Sleeping poorly
  • Experiencing physical symptoms like stomach pains, headaches, neck pain
  • Feeling worried and tense

What kinds of changes can help you?
There are a lot of changes you can make on your own that can help you feel better and change the way you relate to loved ones, co-workers and even strangers. Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t allow yourself to have angry outbursts. That’s really simply indulging your anger. Wait, breath deeply and express yourself in a calm way.
  • Don’t interrupt people during conversations.
  • Don’t yell and raise your voice.
  • Spend time with your loved ones.
  • Don’t use curse words.
  • Take time to do things you enjoy.
  • Don’t honk your car horn when you’re frustrated. Use it only to if you need to prevent an accident.
  • Get regular exercise
  • Drive slowly.
  • Don’t eat too fast.
  • Talk to friends about stressful things that are bothering you.
  • Try to practice relaxation techniques, such as sitting and focusing on your breath, every day for about 20 minutes if you can.

If you still can’t seem to get a grip on your feelings of anger, hostility and anxiety, consider seeing a professional counselor for an assessment and possible treatment.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; American Medical Association’s Complete Guide to Men’s Health, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2001; National Institutes of Health; H. Simon, The Harvard Medical School Guide to Men’s Health, The Free Press, 2002.
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