Shorter life spans for men called `silent health crisis'

Tuesday, April 29th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. men die on average almost five years before women, far sooner if they're minorities, and a medical journal is calling the disparity a ``silent health crisis.''

Doctors and census takers have long pointed out the difference. Now, said Dr. Louis Sullivan, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, ``It is time to awaken the nation to the fact that the current health state of men, especially men of color, is hazardous to the nation's long-term health.''

An edition of the American Journal of Public Health dedicated to men's health reports:

_Men have higher death rates than women for each of the 15 leading causes of death except Alzheimer's disease. Men's death rates are at least twice as high for accidents, murder, suicide and hardening of the liver.

_Women have lived longer for the past century. Although the gap is narrowing, men's life expectancy remains almost five years shorter than for women _ and black men die almost 12 years sooner than white women.

_When it comes to chronic disease, men are slightly more likely to get high blood pressure or cancer, and twice as likely to consume more than five alcoholic drinks a day.

The journal cites a number of reasons for the discrepancies. Men are more likely than women to be in prison, to be homeless or to use of illegal drugs, wrote sociologist David Williams of the University of Michigan.

Minorities are more likely to live in poverty, he notes. And while 17 percent of white men are uninsured, 28 percent of black men and almost half of Hispanic men have no insurance.

Then there are cultural beliefs about projecting masculinity, undermining preventive health care. For example, women are twice as likely as men to visit a doctor each year, and men's visits are shorter and less likely to include advice on behaviors that improve health, Williams said.