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International Men’s Health Week: A Focus on Occupational Health and Safety

International Men’s Health Week: A Focus on Occupational Health and Safety

Trigger Warning

This article contains discussions of mental health issues, including references to suicide. These topics may be distressing for some readers.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or suicidal thoughts, please seek support from a mental health professional or contact a crisis hotline such as Lifeline on phone on 13 11 14 or online chat .

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International Men’s Health Week, from 12-18 June, presents an opportunity to highlight some of the major health risks for men and explore how employers can help mitigate these risks. Addressing these concerns not only improves individual well-being but also enhances workplace productivity and safety.

Traditionally, men face cultural barriers that discourage proactive medical attention, especially for mental health and family violence. Stigma around seeking help for these issues can prevent men from accessing support and help. Neurodivergent 

men such as those who identify as Autistic or who have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyslexia or any of the other neurodivergent identities are particularly vulnerable.

Employers can play a pivotal role by offering inclusive health promotion programs; men’s health campaigns and opportunities for health screening. Making it convenient for men to be screened at work can overcome the reluctance to make appointments and visit doctors.

Top 10 Health Risks for Men

males. This means that the work-related fatality rate (the number of deaths per 100,000 workers) was 2.5 in men as opposed to 0.2 in women.

1. Heart Disease:

Heart disease kills more men than any other disease. According to the Heart Research Institute, in 2021, the leading cause of death for males was coronary heart disease, accounting for 10,371 (12%) deaths, with death rates twice as high for males as for females. Every year, about 17,300 Australians die from CHD, equating to around 120 deaths per day.

 

2. Prostate Cancer

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare offers detailed statistics on prostate cancer in Australia. Their latest findings indicate that prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among Australian men, with approximately 16,700 new cases identified in 2019. It ranks as the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Australian men, with around 3,200 fatalities reported in the same year.

Most at risk are men over 50.

 

3. Testicular Cancer

In Australia, testicular cancer is one of the most diagnosed cancers in young men aged 15-39. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2018, there were 882 new cases of testicular cancer diagnosed in Australia. The survival rate is high if detected early, with nearly 97% of men surviving at least five years post-diagnosis

 

4. Mental Health Issues

In Australia, men are significantly more at risk of dying by suicide, being three times more likely than women, with an average of 6.4 male suicides occurring daily in 2022, resulting in 2,455 deaths compared to 794 female deaths. Men are also less likely to seek help for mental health issues, with only 36.4% consulting a health professional compared to 51.1% of women.

Additionally, one in seven Australian men will experience depression in their lifetime, affecting approximately 1.3 million men, and one in five will experience an anxiety condition, impacting about 2.3 million men. Men are often less likely to seek help for mental health issues due to stigma.

 

5. Domestic and Family Violence

Whilst women experience domestic and family violence including coercive control and financial abuse at greater rates than men, men face additional challenges in reporting such violence due to societal expectations and stigma associated with traditional gender roles, which emphasize male strength and self-reliance. This can lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment.

Awareness of domestic violence against men is low, and there are fewer support services tailored for them. Men may also fear disbelief or ridicule, further discouraging them from seeking help. Legal and institutional barriers can complicate reporting, as men might worry their claims won’t be taken seriously or that they won’t receive adequate protection.

In Australia, employees experiencing domestic and family violence are entitled to 10 days of paid leave each year, regardless of gender, to address the impact of the violence, including attending medical or legal appointments and finding new accommodation.

 

6. Diabetes

Diabetes is a long-term condition characterised by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. This occurs either because the body cannot produce insulin (a hormone made by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels), or it cannot use insulin effectively, or both.

The condition is more prevalent among older Australians, with nearly 1 in 5 people aged 80-84 affected, which is almost 30 times the rate of those under 40. Men are 1.3 times more likely to develop diabetes than women. Approximately 1.2 million Australians live with diabetes, with men being more prone to developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, and lower limb amputations.

 

7. Respiratory Diseases:

Respiratory diseases can be caused or exacerbated by occupational exposure to harmful substances such as silica, asbestos, and other industrial pollutants. These exposures can lead to severe conditions like silicosis, asbestosis, mesothelioma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Men working in construction, mining, and manufacturing industries are particularly at risk.

The prevalence rates of respiratory diseases are generally higher in men compared to women, largely due to these occupational hazards. For instance, COPD is more common in men, partly because of higher rates of smoking and industrial exposure historically.

 

8. Liver Disease:

Liver diseases are often linked to alcohol consumption, hepatitis infections, and occupational exposure to harmful chemicals. Men are more likely to develop conditions such as cirrhosis and liver cancer due to higher rates of risky behaviors like heavy drinking.

Occupational exposure to toxic substances in industries like chemical manufacturing and farming also increases the risk of liver damage. The prevalence of liver diseases is generally higher in men compared to women, reflecting these risk factors.

 

9. Accidents and Injuries

Workplace accidents and injuries are a significant issue for men in Australia, particularly in high-risk industries such as construction, mining, and manufacturing. Men are more likely to suffer serious injuries and fatalities due to the hazardous nature of male-dominated industries.

According to Safe Work Australia, in 2022 there were 195 worker fatalities caused by traumatic injuries during a work-related activity and of these, 181 (93%) were males. This means that the work-related fatality rate (the number of deaths per 100,000 workers) was 2.5 in men as opposed to 0.2 in women.

10. Obesity

In Australia, obesity is more prevalent among men than women. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, about 75% of Australian men are overweight or obese in 2017-18, compared to 60% of women.

 

The consequences of obesity are severe and include increased risks of chronic conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Additionally, obesity can lead to significant mental health issues and reduce overall quality of life.

How does neurodivergence affect men’s health?

It is estimated that 15 – 20% of the global population is neurodivergent. In Australia, the prevalence of neurodivergent conditions shows notable gender differences. Men are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with Autism, ADHD and Dyslexia compared with women.

 

Autism

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Autism is diagnosed in males about 3.5 times more often than in females. This disparity is partly due to the different ways neurodivergence can manifest in men and women, with women often better at “masking” their symptoms, leading to underdiagnosis.

Research published by Cambridge University in 2023 reported that people who are Autistic are more likely to experience chronic mental and physical health conditions than their neurotypical peers and face significant challenges in accessing healthcare due 

mainly to difficulties in describing symptoms such as pain. Using new data analytic techniques researchers were able to predict with 72% accuracy whether a participant was Autistic based only on their Health Inequality Score.

 

ADHD

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Males are three times more commonly diagnosed with ADHD than females which can be attributed to more evident symptoms such as hyperactivity and impulsivity in boys compared to the internalised symptoms experienced by girls.

Barkley and Fischer (2019) found that due to increased risk factors people with unmanaged ADHD have a life expectancy 11 – 13 years shorter than people without ADHD.

The Australian Senate Inquiry into ADHD in 2023 emphasised the need for better understanding and support including access to diagnosis and treatment for individuals with ADHD.

The Top 10 Ways Employers Can Help

Here are the top ten ways employers can take to improve the health and wellbeing of all men in their workforce, with a special focus on supporting neurodivergent men.

1. Promote Mental Health Awareness

  • Implement inclusive mental health programs and neurodiversity awareness training and workshops using various communication methods.
  • Address stigma around seeking help for mental health issues.
  • Provide Mental Health First Aiders and Workplace Neurodiversity Advocates.

 2. Provide Accessible Health Screening

    • Offer regular, on-site accessible health screening for conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
    • Ensure health screening programs are easily accessible during work hours.

 3. Support Mental Health for Neurodivergent Employees

  • Promote awareness and acceptance of neurodiversity as a strength in the organisation and incorporate universal design principles into business management systems and processes.
  • Train staff to understand and accommodate neurodivergent needs.

 4. Encourage Work-Life Balance

  • Promote the use of paid leave for health and family reasons.
  • Create a supportive environment for employees taking time off for medical appointments.

 5. Implement Comprehensive Health Promotion Programs

  • Run inclusive health promotion campaigns focused on men’s health issues.
  • Include specific initiatives for neurodivergent individuals.

6. Offer Flexible Working Arrangements

  • Provide options for flexible hours and remote work.
  • Help reduce stress and improve mental health for all employees.

 7. Create a Safe and Inclusive Workplace

  • Address and prevent workplace harassment and bullying.
  • Foster an inclusive culture that respects all employees, including neurodivergent staff.

 8. Provide Education and Training

  • Educate employees on neurodiversity awareness and recognising and managing health risks, including mental health and domestic violence.
  • Offer training on how to support colleagues experiencing health issues.

 9. Facilitate Access to Health Services

  • Partner with local health providers to offer free and inclusive counseling support through an Employee Assistance Program and medical services.
  • Ensure these services are accessible for and understand the differing needs and challenges of neurodivergent employees.

 10. Promote Healthy Lifestyle Choices

  • Encourage physical activity through corporate health insurance, health and fitness programs.
  • Offer healthy food options in the workplace.

 

 

 

Top 10 Community Support Services for Men

There are many community-based services that provide vital support to men across Australia, addressing a range of issues from mental health to relationship challenges, and helping to create healthier, more supportive communities.

 Click on the logos to take you to their website.

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A national telephone and online support service for men with family and relationship concerns. It provides counseling and information and is available 24/7. Ph 1300 78 99 78

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Offers support for mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention. Provides resources, forums, and a 24/7 support line.

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Provides 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services via phone 13 11 14, text 0477 13 11 14, and online chat. They also offer resources for mental health support.

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Focuses on men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health. They fund various health initiatives and promote awareness.

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Offers community-based workshops where men can work on projects, share skills, and build friendships. It aims to improve mental health and well-being through social interaction.

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Provides mental health support for young people aged 12-25, including services for anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. They offer counseling and community support.

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Offers relationship support services, including counseling for family and relationship issues, and support for individuals experiencing domestic violence.

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A suicide prevention charity that encourages people to have regular, meaningful conversations to support those struggling with life. They provide resources for starting conversations and offer community programs.

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Focuses on reducing high suicide rates among construction workers. They provide on-site training, case management, and support through a 24/7 helpline.

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Confidential information, counselling and support service for people experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence.

International Men’s Health Week is an important time to reflect on the health risks men face and the role of workplaces in supporting men’s health. By fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment, employers can help men, including neurodivergent men, lead long, healthy and fulfilling lives. Through awareness, appropriate accommodations, and access to resources, workplaces can significantly contribute to the well-being of their male employees.

 

Catherine Lee (She/Her)­

Director and Founder

RN dipOHN GradCertMgt GradDipOHS COHSProf

The Neurodiverse Safe Work Initiative

 

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