The National Children’s Bureau have published a new report on men’s approaches to getting help and advice on health issues, and what men think might help to improve health outcomes for the next generation.
A broad body of evidence shows that men’s long-term health outcomes are worse than women’s for most health conditions that should affect both sexes equally. Contributing factors identified by research include poorer health literacy in men than women, prevalent attitudes to men’s health, and male reluctance to seek timely help.
Between July and December 2014, 138 men aged 16 and over took the NCB survey.
The survey found a male reluctance to access health services for emotional or psychological issues with 18 per cent of survey respondents saying they would avoid seeking help at almost any cost, and a further 42 per cent only likely to do so as a result of somebody else’s concern. Men aged 25-39 reported the least willingness to seek help for mental health issues, followed by men aged 16-24.
Young men who are confident in their knowledge of how to navigate health systems appear more ready to use health services than those with a lower level of self-reported knowledge.
When asked what changes men think might help boys and young men to grow up feeling more able to acknowledge illness and get advice or treatment for health issues, men placed a heavy emphasis on social and cultural factors.
Of 127 men who answered this question, 71 said that how boys and men talk about health with peers needed to change significantly, and 69 wanted to see significant change in social expectations of how men and women should be. Family attitudes and communication were deemed to need significant change by over a third of respondents, as were role models. 23% of respondents felt strongly that significant change was needed in the availability of male-friendly health information, and in the 55-69 age group this figure rose to 50%.
The report recommends that more needs to be done to better understand what messages would help boys and young men to take care of their own health, and to raise awareness amongst parents/carers, teachers, health professionals and wider society of the need to promote these messages. It also highlights the importance of involving boys and young men in developing accessible, engaging health information.
The survey asks what sources of information or advice were preferred by the respondents. The most popular source was direct from a healthcare professional, followed by friends and family, and websites or apps that were trusted by the respondents. The report notes that whilst it is clear that respondents filter online information for trustworthiness the study did not explore the criteria they were using.
The full report can be read here.