Men’s Health: Understanding the Challenges of Achieving Improved Health and Well-being

Written by Rosie Lobley, Communications Manager on Wednesday 23rd November 2022

On average, men experience higher mortality rates and lower life expectancy than women, possibly in part because men are less likely than women to seek medical assistance when they become physically or mentally unwell.1 In the UK, one in five men will die before they reach 65 years.2 In total, 75% of premature deaths from heart disease and 75% of deaths by suicide occur in men; suicide is the single most prevalent cause of death for British men aged under 50 years.3

Why don't some men seek healthcare or support?

“Masculinity”, as a concept, often endorses stoicism, self-reliance, and a high pain and disease tolerance.4 As such, men who view masculinity as a key aspect of their identity may be reluctant to seek treatment when they are physically or mentally unwell, for fear of appearing weak.5

Fear and denial are key factors keeping men from reaching out for healthcare advice or support; men are also often unaware of the services available to them. As a whole, men prefer to undergo physical tests rather than discuss their problems with a healthcare professional (HCP).6 Men who adhere to traditional beliefs of masculinity are more likely to prefer to see a male instead of female HCP; however, these men are also less likely to disclose symptoms deemed as “embarrassing” to male over female HCPs.7

By contrast, women tend to be more familiar with the need for preventive care than men, as they are more likely to attend regular medical appointments for hormonal contraception, cervical smears, pregnancy, and child health8 – this, in turn, feeds into the concept of healthcare as a feminine domain from an early age, as children are taken to HCPs more often by women than men.9

Only seven countries around the world (Australia, Brazil, Iran, Ireland, Malaysia, Mongolia, and South Africa) have public health strategies in place to specifically address men’s health issues.10

Encouraging healthy behaviors

Peer support is crucial for protecting and maintaining men’s health, particularly in terms of their mental and emotional well-being; men often feel more comfortable to disclose perceived weaknesses in single-sex support groups.11

Non-profit campaigns such as Movember and Andy’s Man Club (a British mental health charity offering men-only talking groups) are working to encourage men to reach out for help when they need it. Since its inception in 2006, the Movember campaign has provided funding for the development of 70 therapies and 107 prostate cancer diagnostic tests, as well as launching over 1250 men’s health projects in 23 countries.12 Andy’s Man Club, which began in 2016 with nine attendees, now boasts 69 clubs around the UK.13

Men’s Sheds, community-based spaces for older men, offering workshop activities and social interaction, with activities tailored to the needs of local users, have demonstrated benefits for the physical and mental health of users.14 The “Shed model” has been particularly beneficial for men who are reluctant to engage with traditional healthcare systems; this model offers a flexible and informal space in which users can feel safe to discuss their issues.15

Well-designed public health interventions targeted specifically toward men can improve outcomes and combat harmful gender-specific expectations.16 The most effective interventions are often related to sports or physical activity, appealing to perceptions of masculinity.17 For example, a 12-week behavioral intervention program aimed at “hard-to-reach” men and delivered through 16 English Premier League clubs saw a substantial increase in improved healthy behaviors in respondents who provided follow-up data.18 The UK-based Men’s Health Forum has devised a “DIY Man MOT”, using car maintenance analogies to highlight key aspects of men’s health:

OCSR2023 Mens Health figure White

Most successful interventions targeting men’s health are community based, rather than professionally developed, and adopt a gender-sensitive approach, reaching out to men using culturally sensitive language and humor.


Illness, injury, and mortality rates indicate there is still a need for engagement and outreach by health services to address the reluctance of many men when seeking care and treatment. The success of independent and grassroots programs aimed at addressing issues around men’s health at the source, often through deploying language and themes that appeal to men’s humor and sense of masculinity, indicates that there is ample scope to broaden this approach. This is particularly relevant when targeting demographics that are most at risk or most hesitant to engage with the healthcare system.


  1. Etienne CF. Addressing masculinity and men’s health to advance universal health and gender equality. Rev Panam Salud Publica 2019;42:e196.
  2. Men’s Health Forum. Join the campaign for a men’s health strategy. (accessed August 2022).
  3. The Lancet. Raising the profile of men’s health. Lancet 2019;394:1779.
  4. Ragonese C, Barker G. Understanding masculinities to improve men’s health. Lancet 2019;394:198–199.
  5. Mursa R et al. Men’s help-seeking and engagement with general practice: An integrative review. J Adv Nurs 2022;78:1938–1953.
  6. Men’s Health Forum. Men unaware of preventative services. (accessed August 2022).
  7. The Conversation. Men more reluctant to go to the doctor – and it’s putting them at risk. (accessed August 2022).
  8. UCI Health. Why men avoid doctor visits. (accessed August 2022).
  9. Banks I. No man’s land: men, illness, and the NHS. BMJ 2001;323:1058–1060.
  10. White A, Tod M. The need for a strategy on men’s health. Trends Urol & Men Health 2022;13:2–8.
  11. Staiger T et al. Masculinity and help-seeking among men with depression: A qualitative study. Front Psychiatry 2020;11:599039.
  12. Movember. You’re changing the face of men’s health. Here’s how. (accessed August 2022).
  13. Andy’s Man Club. We’re here for you. (accessed August 2022).
  14. Kelly D, Steiner A. The impact of community Men’s Sheds on the physical health of their users. Health & Place 2021;71:102649.
  15. Kelly D et al. Men’s sheds as an alternative healthcare route? A qualitative study of the impact of Men’s sheds on user’s health improvement behaviours. BMC Pub Health 2021;21:553.
  16. Baker P, Shand T. Men’s health: Time for a new approach to policy and practice? J Glob Health 2017;7:010306.
  17. Sharp P et al. One small step for man, one giant leap for men’s health: A meta-analysis of behaviour change interventions to increase men’s physical activity. Br J Sports Med 2020;54:1208–1216.
  18. Zwolinsky S et al. Optimizing lifestyles for men regarded as ‘hard-to-reach’ through top-flight football/soccer clubs. Health Educ Res 2013;28:405–413.

If you're in need of further support, please reach out to one of the following services for help: 



United States: 

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Call or text 988 or chat to reach the 988 suicide & crisis lifeline. 

United Kingdom:

National Health Service (NHS)

Use the NHS 111 online service, or call 111.