Movember and menopause: Exploring men's health awareness
Updated: Dec 13, 2022
Don’t be surprised if you see moustaches of all shapes and sizes in the next few weeks. For many, the month of November represents a global movement of support and awareness.
In a month-long movement known as “Movember” or “No-Shave November,” razors around the world are put down in exchange for the embrace of liberated and wild hair.
So, why has November become so hairy? Well, it’s Men’s Health Awareness Month in November, with International Men’s Day falling on the 19th.
Life expectancy for men is statistically shorter than women. This global movement is a response to the question: why?
November is dedicated to increasing awareness and education about men’s health issues – from cancer to mental health support. By learning more about the issues men face, especially as they age, you can help support the people you care about.
A note on language
It’s important to acknowledge how the language often used in the conversation around men’s health largely centres on cisgender men.
Though gendered language such as “man” and “men” will be used in the following discussion around men’s health, Olivia recognises how this language can be exclusive to those who identify as trans or non-binary.
Issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health challenges can affect many - even if their identity has evolved or they have undergone gender-affirming processes.
Challenging harmful stigmas
One of the greatest challenges facing men’s health is the seemingly simple but foundationally complicated act of seeking help. Gender norms, or the social expectations and pressures associated with masculinity and femininity, can be deeply damaging.
A traditional view of masculinity emphasises “toughing it out.” The expectation to be fully self-reliant can be communicated explicitly or quietly internalised, opening the door to isolation.
This cultivates a sense of shame in many men and discourages them from securing help when they need it.
Statistically, men are less likely to reach out for help or talk about how they’re feeling – whether the challenges they face are physical, emotional, or mental.
By encouraging those in your life to be honest about their experiences, you can help them address issues before they become more serious.
Is there a ‘male menopause?’
Before diving into issues of men’s health, let’s address the common query – is there such a thing as “male menopause?”
The short answer? No. Though men can experience frustrating symptoms of ageing in midlife, their bodies do not undergo a process equivalent to menopause.
Menopause is caused by a major shift in hormones during midlife, leading to symptoms such as hot flushes and sleep issues that are associated with this transition.
Oestrogen plays a key role in the function and development of the female body. Though the male body also makes this hormone, oestrogen levels are higher in women.
Similarly, testosterone is a significant hormone in the male body. Though testosterone is present in women, the male body produces more.
When the female body reaches midlife, oestrogen levels drop significantly in a transition known as menopause. There is no equivalent hormonal drop for the male body.
Testosterone levels do lower with age – but the shift is gradual. A testosterone deficiency known as late-onset hypogonadism can develop later in life, but most older men will have hormone levels within a normal range.
Men in midlife can experience symptoms such as mood swings, erectile dysfunction, lower sex drive, increased body fat and increased tiredness, but these are simply symptoms of ageing.
Though there is no male equivalent to menopause, there are several significant health concerns that should receive increased attention.
What are the issues facing men’s health?
Becoming aware of the issues that affect men’s health can help you assist them in securing support.
Prostate cancer is one of the leading cancer diagnoses for men and it is also in the top five causes of cancer death for men.
Because the risk of prostate cancer increases with age, it is recommended that you begin having screenings every 2-3 years once you turn 50.
Since prostate cancer appears to be more aggressive in Black men, it is recommended that screenings for Black men begin at age 45.
Additionally, a family history of prostate cancer increases your risk of developing it. Talking with a doctor is important – especially if your personal risk is higher.
Though testicular cancer appears to be quite treatable, it is increasing in occurrence – especially in young, white men in Western countries.
Oftentimes, testicular cancer can be identified at an early stage, often through self-examinations.
Some doctors recommend monthly self-examinations for those between the ages of 15 and 55 to encourage early treatment.
If there is a change in 1 or both testicles – such as a lump, hardness, enlargement, or pain – you should immediately contact your doctor.
Mental health and suicide prevention
Mental health is one of the most important areas in which men are less likely to receive the care they need.
Statistically, men are more likely to commit suicide than women. This disparity has often been attributed to the harmful masculinity norms that discourage getting help and developing healthy coping behaviours.
According to one study, of the men who had perceived a need for mental healthcare, 37% had refrained from seeking such care.
In Sweden, one study showed that 57% of men with depression and/or anxiety had not sought care during the past year.
Men can often minimise their symptoms. Though they may be sceptical about getting support for mental health, it is important for them to understand that they are not “less” of anything. Everyone deserves care.
Just as it’s important to have someone walk alongside you as you navigate the twists and turns of menopause, you can encourage the men in your life to take on a more active role in their physical and mental health journey.
Of course, everyone is their own individual. Meet the people you care about where they’re at. Encourage them to be honest and open.
There are many ways to promote healthy ageing. As always, feel free to explore (and add to) this list.
Speaking up when something might feel “off” can kickstart the process of securing help.
Consider asking how they’re feeling. Try your best to listen without interruption and judgement. Internalised shame from masculinity norms might flare up.
Encourage them to take action, such as visiting their primary care provider. You are not responsible for fixing anything, but you can provide support.
It’s important to screen for health conditions such as cancer. In a way that you’re able, remind them to perform self-tests for any abnormalities and/or encourage them to contact their doctor.
Try to check in and follow up to help them along the process.
It’s important for your physical and mental well-being to get out and move with friends and family. Staying active can ease stress levels as well as provide healthy outlets.
Exercise with them or go explore a new area. This will not only be helpful for them, but it will surely help your well-being simultaneously.
You are not solely responsible for someone else’s health – even if you care about them. Though you may do your best to support another person, you need to take care of yourself as well.
Ageing is a complex experience for everyone. Through all of it, stay patient with yourself and others as you navigate how to best provide for your health and happiness.
Disclaimer: This website does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this site are for informational purposes only. No material on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. And never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
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