Key Facts on Men's Health in Ireland

Men, on the island of Ireland, experience a disproportionate burden of ill-health. This represents a fundamental inequality in health.

Men are dying too young. Male life expectancy (LE) is just 75.8 years (Republic of Ireland - 75.1 years; Northern Ireland - 76.4 years). This is approximately 5 years younger than that of females and, for certain groups of men, it is younger still. While it is not possible to disaggregate male LE data for Socio-Economic Groups (SEG) in Ireland, data from elsewhere show that the gap in LE for men between the lowest and highest socio-economic groups is as high as 7.4 years. Therefore, it is probable that, for certain groups of men on the island of Ireland, their LE may be significantly lower than that reported here.

Underpinning men’s lower LE is the fact that men have higher death rates at all ages, and for all leading causes of death. While many of these conditions are preventable, their prevalence among men may, in fact, rise in the future. For example, it is predicted that by 2015 a third of all Irish men will be clinically obese, thereby increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in particular. Evidence of sex differences in the incidence, symptoms, and prognosis of a wide range of health problems is also well documented.

There is growing evidence that in constructing, displaying and maintaining their male identity, men engage in risk behaviours that can be seriously hazardous to their health. Since sickness may be seen as an expression of weakness, many men may decide not to seek help and, instead, present a stoical, brave and unflinching front to the outside world. This may account, in part, for why - despite their health profile - men in Ireland are reluctant users of health services and continue to present (too) late in the course of an illness.

Strategic healthcare, social, and economic policies are required to address the health inequalities experienced by men on the island of Ireland. In January 2009, the Republic of Ireland (RoI) became the first country in the world to publish a National Men’s Health Policy (PDF, 1.2MB). This policy adopted a broad social determinants approach to men’s health, and identified areas of action for a range of government departments and agencies.

While this is a significant step for men’s health in RoI, there is much to be done to ensure its full implementation, and to achieve a similar status for men’s health in Northern Ireland (NI). Consequently, there is a need for an awareness-raising body which promotes the health needs of men and boys. The Men's Health Forum in Ireland is that body.

In the Resources section of this website, you will be directed to a range of relevant statistics, research, reports and other websites which will help to increase your understanding of men's health issues and needs.