The report, The State of Men’s Health in Leeds, was commissioned by Leeds City Council and undertaken by researchers in the Centre for Men’s Health at Leeds Beckett and provides the first complete picture of the breadth of issues affecting men’s health in the city.
Data collected in the report reveals that men in Leeds are more likely than women to die while of working age and men have a worse death rate for all common causes of death including suicide, cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory disease.
The researchers also found men are more likely to put their health at risk by leading unhealthy lives. Although risk factors are generally more common in men from less affluent areas of Leeds, many men in some of the wealthier areas are at risk because of being overweight, excessive alcohol consumption and working long hours.
The research was led by Alan White, Professor of Men’s Health at Leeds Beckett, alongside men’s health researcher Dr Amanda Seims and Rob Newton, Health and Wellbeing Policy Officer at Leeds Beckett and Leeds City Council.
Other key findings include:
- There are approximately 368,000 males in Leeds (source 2011 Census). The biggest rise in population over the next 20 years is expected in older men.
- There are around 2,000 men who are single parents with dependent children.
- Around 6,000 men of working age provide 20 or more hours of unpaid care each week.
- Boys are less likely to achieve a good level of basic education and higher grade GCSEs compared to girls.
- The rate of death from suicide is five times higher for men than women.
- Almost 4 out of 10 men aged 50 years or over have a disability that affects their lives in some way every day.
Speaking about the findings, Professor White, said: “Across nearly all causes of death, men in Leeds are more likely to die younger than women. Most men’s health problems are preventable, related to their lifestyle or social conditions.
“Although biology impacts on health differently for men and women, socio-economic and cultural factors, as well as the way boys and men are socialised also have an important influence on health. Historically men have been expected to be breadwinners, providing security for their family, with long term employment and a well-defined place in society. This ‘traditional’ way of living is no longer possible for many men and we see an increasing reality of unemployment, fragile partnerships and poverty, which can have a negative effect on their mental and physical wellbeing.”
Cllr Rebecca Charlwood, Chair of the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board, added: “We know that everyone is different and our health is affected by many factors such as our ethnicity, our gender, our sexuality, our relationships and our character. This is what makes each of us unique and highlights why it is so important that the way services are designed in Leeds and how we are treated reflect these differences. This means putting individuals at the centre of how they are designed and delivered as we strive to be the best city for health and wellbeing.”
The report offers a number of recommendations for the city, using the roles men play in Leeds life to improve their health. The researchers suggest educators in the city need to focus on how we can create the best possible environment for boys to learn, behave and socialise.
They go on to address employment, recommending that employers should engage with their workers to reduce stress and work-related burden. They suggests flexible working, benefits and leave entitlements can help men to invest time in the contribution they make outside of their working lives. Additionally, support for men being made redundant or suffering the effects of the recession should be recognised as an important health priority.
Assessing men’s roles as fathers, the researchers suggest there should be more support for men during pregnancy, longer paternity leave, improved services for fathers and toddlers, assistance for lone fathers, help to maintain contact with children when separation occurs and better recognition of the important role which grandfathers play.
The researchers also identified a large number of men in Leeds who are socially isolated, which has a significant detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing. They recommend social isolation can be addressed through active support for vulnerable men of all ages using assets which exist in communities in Leeds. The report also highlights that more efforts should be focused to address smoking and alcohol use, recommending that smoking cessation and drug and alcohol services should link with other health services, helping to maximise uptake and combat the clustering effect of lifestyle risk.
Black Health Initiative’s Men’s Health MOTs are based within communities in Leeds and encourage men to look at behavioural change. The Health MOTs provide factual information, and health professionals are on hand to take measurements such as blood pressure and blood sugar levels. This information can be taken to GPs and used to encourage the men to access NHS Health Checks.
The report recommends that GPs should discuss men’s weight and physical activity more and greater attention should be placed on helping men with mental and emotional health problems.
The researchers suggest health services need to reach out and target men more effectively and men also need to take the opportunities offered. Weight management services should become more responsive to men’s needs, and be designed to make them male friendly and appealing.
Case Study - St George's Crypt
Leeds Beckett physio lecturer Dr Philomena Commons provides a drop in physiotherapy service for clients of St George's Crypt on a weekly basis.
Case Study - Space2
Space2 promotes arts-based health and wellbeing programmes within Leeds’ most challenged neighbourhoods.
The report also highlights the need for services men have access to in the city to be integrated. The researchers suggest integrated services will help provide whole-person care and encourage more effective use of services.
The authors of the report go on to suggest incremental changes can have a big impact on men in the city. They recommend:
- In all planning Leeds should consider how services should be developed to better meet the needs of men.
- In all official documents, move to talking about ‘men’ and ‘women’ and not ‘the population’; ‘boys’ and ‘girls’, not ‘children’; and ‘mothers’ and ‘fathers’, not ‘parents’, to ensure the impact of policy on gender is considered.
- Schools should continue to focus on how to specifically support boys to improve their achievements in education.
- Investment should be considered a high priority in those areas of Leeds where men’s health issues are most pronounced.
- Services in Leeds should develop specific guidelines on how to target men, with greater use of integrated service provision.
- Employers should take more responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their workforce, with services which would benefit both male and female workers.
- Community groups that have successfully reached out and targeted men should be supported and encouraged to give guidance to groups who struggle to recruit men.
- A men’s health campaign could raise the overall awareness of the issues faced by men in Leeds.
- Partnerships are needed with religious leaders to promote men’s health and to establish men’s health initiatives within religious settings.
To view the full report visit http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/stateofmenshealth/
The Centre for Men’s Health is a part of the Institute for Health and Wellbeing at Leeds Beckett University. The Centre has extensive research and consultancy experience on a broad range of areas relevant to men’s health. The Centre is recognised as world leaders in the area of men's health and have been at the forefront of many of the most influential developments in this field.