Aussie blokes-a picture of health?

Australian men might live longer and healthier lives if they change a few lifestyle factors and occasionally see a GP, according to a world-first major study of male health problems seen in general practice.

Almost 1 in 4 males haven't seen a doctor in 12 months (compared with 1 in 10 females). However, when men do see their GP the pattern of health problems is different across age groups.

Young men aged between 18-24 years are least likely to go to a doctor, but are more likely to smoke daily and drink alcohol at risk levels.

One in ten problems managed in middle aged men was work-related, and only some of these were covered by worker's compensation.

Men aged 65 years and over see their doctor most frequently, with chronic diseases among the most commonly managed. There is a drop off in rates of smoking and risky alcohol consumption among older men, although they are more likely to be overweight or obese.

Male Consultations in General Practice in Australia 1999-00, released today by the University of Sydney and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, details more than 44,000 GP encounters with male patients from a sample of over 1000 doctors.

It provides the first national picture of why men see a GP, the problems managed in general practice and treatment provided.

According to report co-author, Clare Bayram, males are more likely to have physical problems managed-such as those related to the respiratory, musculoskeletal, circulatory and digestive systems-than women.

'Across the lifespan you can see the progression of conditions that male patients consider important enough to make them see a GP,' Ms Bayram said.

'One in three 18-24-year-olds smoke daily and almost half of those who drink alcohol do so at risky levels. Yet when these young men see their GP, it is usually for injuries and acute conditions such as colds, not giving the GP much opportunity for health assessment and education.'

'Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and lipid disorders start to appear in the middle-ages, so it's not really surprising that men in this age group start to see their GP more often, and continue to do so in their later years.'

'GPs today are the gatekeepers in our health care system and are in a good position to contribute to the health of Australia's males. Men, particularly the younger adults, should be encouraged to take a more holistic approach to their health and to use the available GP services better.'

19 February 2003


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