Mental health issues affect tens of millions of Americans, and only half of those affected reach out for help. Mental illnesses, which include depression and anxiety disorders, and which can range from mild to severe, affect more women than men, with around 22.3 percent of women affected compared to only 15.1 percent of men. Young people, in particular, are especially vulnerable to these types of illnesses.
Despite depression and anxiety being far more commonly reported among women than men, however, statistics reveal a phenomenon known as the suicide gender paradox, which indicates that men are 1.75 times more likely to die from suicide than women.
According to the World Health Organization’s Health Statistics 2019 report, a baby boy born this year will likely live to around the age of 69.8, while a baby girl can expect a lifespan of around 74.2 years. The report indicates that the higher risk of suicide among men is just one of the mental health-related reasons why men generally live shorter lives than women.
A life expectancy difference of nearly 5 years
As reported by Psychology Today, there are several reasons why men tend to live shorter lives than women, and quite a few of these reasons revolve around untreated mental health problems or psychological traits like aggression and risky behavior.
As an example of this, road injuries were responsible for a 0.47 year reduction in male lifespan, and although this can partly be attributed to the fact that more men than women work in the transportation industry, studies have also found that men are far more likely to exhibit risky and aggressive behavior behind the wheel.
The abstract of a meta-analysis published in the journal of the Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting explained:
Aggressive driving behavior can be manifested in a wide variety of unsafe driving practices such as tailgating, honking, obscene and rude gestures, flashing high beams at slower traffic, and speeding. According the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2000 report, aggressive driving was a major cause of traffic accidents and injury.
The analysis found that men are more likely to drive drunk, demonstrate aggression in the way they use their vehicle’s lights, and react slowly in accident situations.
Cirrhosis of the liver was responsible for a 0.27-year reduction in the lifespan of men. Psychology Today noted:
While cirrhosis of the liver is a physical illness and not a mental health issue, one of its leading causes is alcohol use disorder. Importantly, there is a pronounced gender difference in the prevalence of alcohol use disorders. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), roughly 16.1 million individuals in the U.S. suffer from alcohol use disorder. There is a 2:1 ratio for men compared to women, with 9.8 million men and 5.3 million women affected in the U.S.
Studies have revealed that the reasons for this difference include men being taught to believe that the ability to drink large volumes of alcohol is a desirable trait; less pronounced reactions to drinking alcohol than those experienced by women; and the fact that men may turn to alcohol to cope with problems rather than reaching out for help. (Related: Mental health issues are often the result of a nutritional deficiency; treating them with prescription drugs can further compromise your well-being.)
The higher risk of suicide among men mentioned at the outset is also a major contributor to their shorter lifespan. Experts believe that traditional male gender roles do not equip men to deal with mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Men are often taught to suppress their emotions and are more likely to turn to alcohol to self-medicate their problems away than to seek professional help.
Learn more about coping with mental health issues at Psychiatry.news.
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