How employers can positively address the health needs of their male employees
There is no doubt that the health of every employee is critical to the success of any organization. Men’s health and women’s health are equally crucial to overall health and workplace productivity. Healthy employees are not always a given, especially for those who don’t go to the doctor as often as they should. Despite their own barriers to care, data shows that women use more health care services than men or people assigned male at birth.1,2,3
Why we need to talk about men’s health in the workplace
Because men tend to seek less care than women, many of them may miss out on preventive screenings and other recommended health care services aimed at helping them stay healthy and productive.4
Preventive care can be lifesaving in combination with other wellness measures.5 Yet longstanding masculinity ideals and stigmas around caring for the body and mind are thought to contribute to this care gap.
All is not lost. One way to start destigmatizing this topic is to talk about it. Opening the conversation around men’s health in the workplace can seem challenging but is well worth the effort. Taking steps to promote the importance of men’s health in your workplace can help remove the stigmas that can keep men from getting the care they need.
Stigma to support: Men’s mental health
Stigmas around seeking help for mental health are widespread among men and women. Social patterns that shape stereotypes help fuel stigmas. This contributes to the sense of shame men may feel when seeking help for behavioral health concerns. Women are often painted in a soft light and expected to be caregivers. On the contrary, society imposes unreasonable expectations that demand men to be strong and suppress their emotions. This masculinity norm can have dire physical and mental health consequences that can impact men, their partners, and others around them.
While the potential effects of these expectations can be detrimental to men’s health, the mental health component is particularly concerning. Some research suggests that depressive disorders will become one of the leading causes of ill health and premature death worldwide and that the estimated annual economic costs associated with them could reach well into the hundreds of billions in the U.S. alone.
The same stigmas that discourage men from getting support to strengthen their mental health can also spread to physical health. Heart disease, lung cancer, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are among the serious diseases that men are at a higher risk of developing.6 Men also die an average of 5 years earlier than women.7 Yet, they tend to use fewer health care services than women—a damaging trend that cannot continue.
How employers can encourage men to take charge of their health
- Don’t reinforce stigmas. Even in a joking manner, making light of stigmas that make men feel weak for getting care can be damaging. Stop negative talk when you hear it, and lead by example. Let staff know that getting services like preventive care is a sign of strength and important to their overall health.
- Create a comfort level. Make health care an acceptable conversation topic in the workplace. Try placing posters and other literature that promote men’s health in break rooms. These materials can spark conversations and encouragement. Some insurance carriers can provide various materials you can change throughout the year to increase awareness of a range of health issues and supports.
- Be as flexible as possible. If employees need to get care, try to accommodate their schedule. If possible, allow them to come in early or stay later to make up any needed time.
UPMC Health Plan can support your whole workforce
We provide access to top-quality care for all our members. UPMC Health Plan is a men’s health advocate dedicated to helping men and their families enjoy the best health possible.
1Males die younger than females. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed Jan. 18, 2023. Accessed Oct. 10, 2023. cdc.gov/nchs/hus/spotlight/2020-males.htm.
2Long M, Frederiksen B, Ranji U, Salganicoff A. Women’s Health Care Utilization and Costs: Findings from the 2020 KFF Women’s Health Survey. KFF. April 21, 2021. kff.org/womens-health-policy/issue-brief/womens-health-care-utilization-and-costs-findings-from-the-2020-kff-womens-health-survey/. Accessed Sept. 20, 2023.
3Fact sheet: general facts on women and job based health. U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration. Accessed Sept. 20, 2023.
4National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2020–2021: Annual Perspective. Hyattsville, Maryland. 2023. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.15620/cdc:122044
5Are You Up to Date on Your Preventive Care? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed April 19, 2023. Accessed Sept. 20, 2023. cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/preventive-care/index.html
6Goal: improve health and well-being for men. Healthy People 2030. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Accessed Sept. 20, 2023. health.gov/healthypeople/objectives-and-data/browse-objectives/men
7Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, et al. Mortality in the United States, 2017. NCHS Data Brief, no 328. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018.