Too many men 'unconcerned' about weight health risks

Male belly Men often give up sport as they get older

Too many men are failing to recognise the health risks of being overweight, according to Men's Health Forum chief executive Peter Baker.

He says that by not acting to tackle the problem, the NHS is making "a rod for its own back".

Women face a lot of cultural pressure to be slim. This is largely not because of health concerns and can sometimes have quite tragic consequences.

It does mean though, that many women often have a good understanding of the factors that affect their weight.

The majority of men, on the other hand, appear not to be as bothered about their weight as they maybe should be. Neither are health services.

A significantly greater proportion of men are overweight or obese (66% of men compared with 57% of women).

Body image

Too many men still die too young - 22% of men in England and Wales die before they reach 64 compared to 13% of women.

Overweight and obesity are a major factor in this excess burden of male death.

Two thirds of men are overweight or obese - the obesity rate alone could rise to 60% by 2050.

Overweight men tend to be "apple-shaped", overweight women "pear-shaped". For complex physiological and biological reasons, this extra fat around the middle causes much greater harm.

Yet many men seem unconcerned about their weight.

Start Quote

Some start feeling they can't keep up like they could when they were younger ”

End Quote Peter Baker

Their attitude is that weight is a "women's issue".

This is a cultural thing. Women face a lot more body image pressure than men, although that is starting to affect some young men too.

But generally it appears men are less aware of the connection between excess weight and poorer health.

Being overweight increases the risks of heart disease and stroke - the biggest killers of men.

It is also an important risk factor for several cancers.

Men are 70% more likely than women to die from cancers common to both sexes and 60% more likely to get such a cancer.

Services 'not man-friendly'

This is not just about a choice between eating a burger and salad. It goes much further than diet.

More physical activity could make a big impact. Active men have a 20-30% reduced risk of early death and up to 50% reduced risk of developing major diseases.

Men are more likely than women to get some exercise but their exercise levels drop off very quickly as they get into their 30s.

We estimate a million men aged over 35 in England and Wales need to get more exercise if their age group is to be as active as younger men.

Some start feeling they can't keep up like they could when they were younger or become more worried about injuries. But instead of adapting how they play football or rugby, they stop all altogether.

There are other ways to get some exercise and reap the benefits - a Dutch study found commuters who cycle take less time off sick.

We need to let men know about alternatives to the style of football or rugby they played when they were 20.

The result of society's and men's own attitude to men's weight is that services do not really cater well for men. This includes the NHS weight loss services which are often not particularly "man friendly".

We need male-friendly approaches capable of engaging with men and we need them soon - especially in primary care and health promotion.

We need to improve men's physical activity levels, whether through sports or building exercise into routine.

By deterring men from seeking help with their weight the NHS is only making a rod for its own back.

These men will be more likely to need expensive treatment for serious conditions later on.

In the meantime they are more likely to take time off work as they become ill and their illnesses will cause distress throughout their family.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    it is NOT a case of swapping an extra 5 years in a nursing home for the pleasures of good food and drink?!? Persons of healthy weight enjoy good food and drink every day. When obese, you consume too much which leads to significant morbidity (unnecessary pain and suffering). Take it for someone that see's people who die from the complications of obesity, it is not pleasant!

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Mike@#8 - and the best thing about living in a free society is that that's absolutely their right, just as it is yours to exercise and eat whatever the experts claim to be 'healthy' this week. Maybe some of your 'mall fatties' have better things to do than worry about weight - they've made a conscious choice to swap five extra years in a nursing home for the pleasures of good food and drink now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Go into your local mall and you will see that over two thirds of males are overweight, so this distinct group is actually the majority of people.It's not a lack of information, because they already have that. And if you gave free fitness lessons most would not turn up anyway ( I've offered it). They either don't want to be healthy or don't want it enough (which is the same thing).

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    On a side note, is it really necessary to throw around insults like 'barrage balloon' and 'lazy slobs' which if levelled at ANY other distinct group wouldn't see the light of day? The fact that so many comments on 'obesity' stories focus on moral superiority and disgust reinforce my belief that this current 'climate of concern' / moral panic over fat people has little or nothing to do with health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Given that several studies attribute conditions considered by the medical mainstream as 'obesity-related' to stress and low self-esteem caused by size discrimination and stigma, attempts to subject men to the same body neuroses as women seem at best counterproductive. The same warped logic holds that the best way to end bullying of fat kids is not to change attitudes but to eliminate the fat kids.


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