9 Health Risks for Boys and Men

While statistics paint an alarming picture of men’s health, the good news is we’ve got some expert practical advice to improve your chance of living a long and healthy life. Whatever age, here’s what you should look out for, starting with boys.

1. Actively help boys to deal with trauma 

Childhood trauma can have lifelong health impacts that may be physical, mental or both. Events that can be traumatic for children include: 

  • accidents
  • family dysfunction
  • separation from a parent or caregiver
  • bullying
  • abuse
  • neglect
  • violence (experiencing and/or witnessing)
  • intergenerational trauma (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and boys in particular experience high rates of intergenerational trauma that can impact their long-term health)
  • war (some have been tortured or gone through some kind of war-related trauma)
  • stress caused by poverty.

Parents and carers play an important role in helping boys during, and after, times of trauma. Sticking to a regular routine, being understanding, giving your boy extra attention, and making sure he gets enough rest and sleep are all ways that the impact of trauma can be minimised. Parents and carers can also access support and advice via their GP, a counsellor or psychologist.

With the active support of parents, carers and mental health professionals, boys who have experienced trauma have a better chance of experiencing fewer negative health consequences across their lives. 

2. Anxiety and asthma are the two leading causes of poor health in boys aged 5 to 14

Even though we live in ‘the lucky country’, young Australians are still at risk of many serious health issues. For boys aged 5 to14, asthma and anxiety are top of the list.

Estimates suggest around one in 10 Australian children have asthma. Asthma symptoms and triggers do vary, so it’s important to seek medical diagnosis and management advice. If a child in your care experiences difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing or chest tightness, see your GP to discuss whether he could have asthma. If it’s managed well, boys with asthma can lead happy, healthy lives.

Anxiety disorders are a common mental health concern in young children. It's estimated that about half of all serious mental health problems in adulthood begin before the age of 14.

Families are often in the best position to pick up any issues with boys’ thinking, emotions or behaviour. It’s important to remember that not all anxiety is a disorder. It is common for boys – including babies, toddlers and boys aged five to 14 – to be fearful of situations or objects that adults don’t find threatening. 

Parents can help boys successfully deal with their fears. If you’re concerned that your child may have an anxiety disorder, or that he is particularly burdened with fears or phobias, seek help from a mental health professional. Your GP, school psychologist or counsellor are all good starting points. 

3. Encourage adolescent boys to take fewer risks

The adolescent years are typically a period of experimentation for boys. They can also be a time where boys are vulnerable due to low levels of risk-perception coupled with high levels of risk-taking.

Peers play a significant role in the lives of adolescent males – social connection and friendship are vital for boys and men throughout their lives.

Yet peer pressure can result in poor choices and risk-taking behaviours that may be harmful to physical and mental health. 

Alcohol is responsible for most drug-related deaths in the teenage population. Many adolescent boys experiment with alcohol, however drinking too much can impact boys’ physical and mental health, as well as their ability to make good decisions. 

Parents and carers can help combat peer pressure to drink by modelling sensible drinking behaviours such as:

  • drinking moderately or not at all
  • not drinking every time you socialise
  • never drinking and driving
  • dealing with stress in healthy ways that don’t involve alcohol.

It’s also important for parents and carers to talk to adolescent boys about the links between drinking and dangerous behaviour, such as unsafe sex, drink driving and fighting.

Research shows that confident adolescent boys, who feel supported by their families and friends, are less susceptible to peer pressure, make better decisions and can more safely negotiate the challenges of adolescence.

Good mental health is very important for adolescent boys. Close, stable relationships at home, school and in the community can help to protect adolescent boys’ mental health and wellbeing.

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