REVIEW – June 2008

Male health in old age


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Securing the wellbeing of older people requires more resources nowadays. By the year 2050 the number of people older than 65years will be redoubled from 6.9% to 16.4%. The number of very old people (over 80 years) will rise from 1.9% to 4.2%. In 2050 there will be 16 times more 100-year-old persons compared to 1998. Therefore is more important to introduce the concept of healthy ageing at all levels of society. Firstly, it allows older people to live a full-value life and, secondly, it reduces remarkably the burden placed on society. When a person gets older, increasingly more of his or her wellbeing depends on the environment and health care. These two factors should be adjusted also according to the specific needs of older men.

The purpose of the present study was to bring out main changes occurring in the lives of men who have passed middle age, and to analyse the health risks connected with the ageing of men as well as the burden of diseases to society.

The World Health Organization has identified 10 determinants that influence person’s health most. These are social gradient, stress, earlier life history, social exclusion, work, unemployment, social support, addiction, food, transport. Without doubt, all these determinants are significant and interconnected. Considering the circumstances related to male health, certain determinants appear more important than others, namely, social gradient, social exclusion, social support and work/unemployment. In the present study the impact of these determinants on male health is analysed in greater detail..

Retirement and giving up daily work brings about many changes into human life. Among others, this may cause a feeling of worthlessness. Particularly men who have occupied higher positions feel themselves “empty” after retirement. Retiring is seen not only as giving up working life, but also as limiting one’s social contacts. Consequently, social communication outside home will also be diminished. Loneliness connected with changes in life can be relieved by prior emotional preparation, economic stability and available alternative activities. In addition to weakened social relationships, retirement may also cause a decrease in income and living in a nursing home..

In middle age, health-damaging habits like inappropriate eating, inadequate physical activity and excessive alcohol consumption will affect health increasingly more. There may develop different health ailments as obesity, diabetes, hypertonia and cardiovascular disease. Age-related health problems are also disorders of sexual and mental health and prostate cancer. Attention should be paid to the fact that suicide rate among men is the highest in the older age group.

Besides giving up social life, older men turn to health service providers remarkably less often compared to older women. According to statistics, 40-50% of men have health problems that their family doctors are unaware of. Such problems are mostly incontinence, deficiencies in hearing and eyesight, podriatric problems, depression and alcoholism. Yet such conditions are mostly well treatable or relievable.

In the United States it is expected that by the year 2040 people over 65 years of age will consume more than 50% of all health insurance resources. Taking the above facts into consideration, it is evident that investments into preventive health care for older people have to be increased. In elaborating different programmes, the interests of various groups have to be taken into account. The prevention targeted to the elderly with relatively good health is remarkably different from the prevention targeted to people with disabilities or to those living in social welfare institutions. The aim of prevention should be preserving of quality of life and securing independent coping as long as possible.

In all developed countries life expectancy and the life lived without disabilities is shorter for men than for women. Therefore, it is crucial to take measures for improving the health indicators for men. The key area is here effective intersectorial cooperation between the state and the private sector, as well as between health care and social welfare. While planning methods for predisposing the health of older men, specific agents of danger to their health have to be taken into account.