Male health inequality not helped by employers
Our new research highlights the fact that twenty-five per cent of employers do not offer any male-specific health support in the workplace, despite as many as 81% believing that not doing so, risks losing their best talent.
As working-age men are 32% less likely to visit a GP (compared to women), serious issues often go untreated for longer, sometimes until it is too late: one in five men do not reach traditional retirement age.
Although there are calls for a government-led Men’s Health Strategy to tackle this and other gender inequalities in healthcare, we believe employers do not need to wait for this to make a difference to the holistic health of male employees and those who were assigned male at birth. Not only is this important in supporting the specific clinical health of individual men within the workforce, but it is also important to support other areas of men’s health such as mental health, nutrition and exercise, enabling employers to retain healthy and productive employees and to avoid losing staff to competitors who are more forward-thinking in this area.
Our research corroborates these benefits. When asked about the importance of offering male-specific health support from a retention point of view:
- half (50%) of employers said that offering men’s health support is important to mitigate the risk of the wider workforce being impacted by the few, i.e. a team being affected by a colleague having time off or not being productive.
- thirty-seven per cent said offering men’s health support is important to reduce staff churn.
The consultation deficit
In September 2021, the ONS reported the first decline in male life expectancy since the 1980s with suicide, health disease, cancer and diabetes being among the biggest culprits of premature death. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if men were more engaged with their health and wellbeing.
The primary reason often cited for the male ‘consultation deficit’, is traditional masculine behaviours where men delay consultations with healthcare professionals, often resulting in poorer health outcomes. Similarly, significant events across the female lifespan including menstruation, contraception, pregnancy and menopause mean that women are compelled to be more in contact with primary care services - unlike men.
Dedicated support is required
We believe that offering wide-reaching workplace health support that is aimed at men is a huge differentiator in terms of take-up, as male employees and those who were assigned male at birth, know that they will receive dedicated support. This applies to male-specific conditions such as prostate and testicular cancer but also to nutrition, fitness and mental health support, which requires a different approach and accessibility.
Why workplace solutions work
Discreet, holistic health support provided via the workplace is particularly good for men as it makes getting help more accessible and less of a significant undertaking for the individual.
Employers looking to offer men’s health support in the workplace need to consider the best method of delivery. Digital solutions, in particular, are often more inclusive and convenient, enabling men to have conversations discreetly, and often anonymously, which is often preferred, particularly initially. However, having the opportunity for human interaction can become more important, particularly if a diagnosis has been received. The best men’s health support will not just deliver support from one practitioner, it will be a whole team of experts who work together to get to the root of issues.
In fact, employers themselves believe that the ability to have one-to-one support from specialist clinicians is the most crucial factor in providing men’s health support (43%). However, acknowledging the male psyche and the need for privacy, employers believe that signposting to trusted educational materials, reading and websites are the next most important (39%).
We would, of course, welcome a Men’s Health Strategy but in the meantime, employers do not need to live with the status quo. Resources are available for employers to improve the holistic health of the men within their organisations right now. We know that a gender-focussed approach is necessary and it’s not overstating things to say lives could be saved if employers step up to help men engage more in their own physical, mental and nutritional health and wellbeing.
Men are so more likely to bury their head in the sand when it comes to their health and wellbeing, so generic health messages can get ignored or overlooked. By supporting men’s health with dedicated and accessible support, employers are better able to raise awareness of specific illnesses such as male-specific cancers, heart disease or diabetes, as well as other more general health concerns including diet and exercise.
Employers who support their male employees with a gender-focussed approach, increase the chance of their staff getting better outcomes and having a happier, healthier workforce.