Health matters. I think you’d struggle to find anyone who would disagree with that. Which begs the question: why are people often reluctant to talk about it?
Reviewing the results of the Construction News 2018 Mind Matters mental health survey, Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, reflected on the importance of creating an environment where people feel able to talk about issues they are facing. Research has shown that men are less likely to talk about their health. There are damaging stereotypes to contend with – such as taking risks being perceived as a masculine norm – as well as a lack of awareness around services and a general reluctance to take time off work for health-related issues. Mamo noted that developing a culture of openness is therefore even more vital in male dominated sectors, such as construction. She was referring mainly to the state of mental health in the industry, clearly a vital topic of conversation, with one in four construction workers considering suicide in the last year and suicide being the biggest cause of death for men under 35. However, encouraging this dialogue must extend to all aspects of male health.
Research has revealed that men are less likely to:
Men’s lower use of primary care services has been recognised as a huge contributor to their higher rates of hospitalisation. The delay in accessing health care is increasing the severity of men’s illnesses. Clearly, the lack of conversation is putting men’s health – and their lives – at risk.
Men’s Health Week, an annual awareness event which this year ran from 10th-16th June, aims to encourage health talk, bring attention to health issues that disproportionately affect men and improve health literacy. This year’s theme is men’s health by numbers and the Men’s Health Forum are working to highlight some key facts and figures to educate and empower men everywhere.
Some of the numbers are shocking. On average, more than one in five men is still dying between the ages 16 and 65, and more than two in five before the age of 75. 67% of men are overweight or obese yet only 10-20% of those on NHS weight-loss programmes are men. Middle-aged men are twice as likely to have diabetes as women – yet they are twice as likely not to know they have diabetes. There are also lifestyle factors to consider: men are generally in poorer health; have a worse diet; are more likely to smoke and be alcoholics; and, whilst they often do more physical activity than women, many don’t do enough to make any difference to their health. The list goes on.
Raising awareness is important, but the Men’s Health Forum are keen to focus on some of the numbers that will empower men to take control of their health in a positive way. Here is want they want you to know:
The Men’s Health Forum have emphasised that the disparity in access to frontline health services between men and women largely occurs at working age. As soon as men retire, they go to the doctor just as much as women! A key factor seems to be that men are reluctant to take time off work to address health issues, which further serves to underline the importance of developing a health-positive culture of honesty in the workplace.
There has been significant progress in the manual work culture with regards to health and safety. Where at one time workers may not even have been offered basic safety equipment, such as masks, gloves or eyewear, it is now not just the norm but understood to be essential practice. However, it is still important to acknowledge some of the ongoing occupational health risks faced by those who work in construction.
One of the industry’s priority areas to tackle is mitigating occupational lung disease. HSE data shows that 12,000 lung disease deaths each year are estimated to be linked to past exposures at work. Harmful dust particles can become airborne during construction work and can even remain in the environment long after work has been completed. For every worker killed on site, approximately 100 die from ill health due to past exposures. The HSE data also shows that 56% of all occupational cancers in the UK were in the construction industry.
Despite these clear risks, construction work does not need to be dangerous. Chris Lucas, HM Principal Inspector of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), has said it is both possible and practical to carry out construction work without causing ill health by implementing proper checks and making use of new technologies designed to make work safer. For example, close adherence to regulations such as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations is vital in safeguarding workers against harm.
Lucas has also highlighted the need to work together to change the dialogue, so that rather than accepting ill health as an inevitable side-effect of working in construction, more work is done to prevent ill health in the first place.
If you need advice or support about mental health, visit:
For more information about men’s health, visit: