In a new report the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) said the life expectancy for men in the Caribbean is 5.8 years below that of women, partly because societal expectations contribute to risk-seeking behaviours. The report titled “Masculinities and Health in the Region of the Americas” was launched on the eve of International Men’s Day.
The report notes that societal expectations of men to be providers, engage in risk-seeking behaviors, to be sexually dominant, and avoid discussing their emotions or seek help, behaviors commonly referred to as “toxic masculinity,” are contributing to higher rates of suicide, homicide, addictions, and road traffic accidents, as well as chronic non-communicable diseases among men.
“We must not lose sight of the fact that women bear differential risks associated with their status as women,” said Anna Coates, PAHO’s Chief of the Equity, Gender and Cultural Diversity.
“But the socialisation of men also leads to a broad range of health problems that can only be addressed through responsive health policies, programmes and services that focus on their particular needs.”
The report also highlights that one out of five men die before the age of 50 and many of the leading causes of death in the Americas, including heart disease, interpersonal violence and road accidents, are directly related to socially constructed “macho” behaviors.
According to the report, the gender roles, norms and practices socially imposed on men reinforce a lack of self-care and neglect of their own physical and mental health.
It said that this concept of masculinity, or “machismo” as it is known in the Americas, leads to three overarching risks; risk to women and children, in the form of violence, sexually transmitted infections, and lack of shared responsibility in the home; risk to other men, such accidents, homicides and other violence; risk to self, such as suicide, accidents, alcoholism and other addictions.
“Not only does this affect the health of men themselves, but it also leads to negative outcomes for women and children in terms of interpersonal violence, the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, imposed pregnancy and absent paternity,” PAHO said.
The report also highlights that discrimination around age, ethnicity, poverty, employment status and sexuality further compound negative health outcomes for men. The report calls for countries to implement nine recommendations to help improve the health of men. These recommendations include development of public policies and programmes to prevent and address the main problems affecting men as well as eliminate the barriers that prevent boys and men from accessing care.