DOES “THE SYSTEM” MAKE MEN AND BOYS UNHEALTHY

Men live shorter lives than women on average. Men’s lower life expectancy is shaped by a range of social factors, such as education and work, that are sometimes referred to as the “causes of the causes” of poor physical and mental health. The social factors that shape men’s health are deeply influenced by a combination of structural factors that define how society society treats men and women. These include:

  • Government policies on health and other social issues like education, work and family life
  • The way institutions like government bodies, businesses and charities treat men and boys
  • The amount of funding targeted at addressing “men’s issues” like boys’ education, fatherhood and male suicide
  • Our beliefs about gender and gender issues
  • The economy, the environment and global politics

The way Australia is run, not only by all levels of Government, but also across the private sector and civil society, has a profound impact on our lives and our health. The amount of funding invested in different social issues, for example, is shaped by the state, the business community and non-governmental organisations.

The actions that state bodies take in areas like education, family life and employment are set out in government policies that shape the social determinants of male health such as boys’ education, our experiences of fatherhood and men’s working lives.

All of these structural factors are shaped by cultural norms and values, such as the different expectations we place on men and women. Together, these structural factors define the amount of time, money and energy we invest in men’s health and women’s health in areas such as:

  • Government departments
  • Government policies
  • Government funding
  • Specialist NGOs
  • Corporate initiatives

If “the system” is investing less time, money and resources in supporting men and boys’ health, then we would expect men to experience worse health outcomes. This doesn’t mean we should take funding away from women’s health. It means we need to place greater focus on men and boys’ needs, in addition to the time, money and resources we invest in women and girls.

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