Young men thinking about settling down, getting married and having children may be surprised to learn that there are health benefits to doing so. A recent study published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that educated, married men appear to live longer than their unmarried and less educated counterparts.
JAMA devotes its most recent issue to examining the increasingly important field of "men's health."
In one of the largest, longest, and most complete follow-up studies ever conducted on aging in men, the Honolulu Heart Program/Honolulu Asia Aging Study followed 5,820 men of Japanese ancestry living in Hawaii for 40 years. In examining the risk factors for healthy survival, they found that the most powerful socioeconomic factor was education. The study also found that men who had a marital partner during midlife tended to live longer, although these men did not appear to be healthier in very old age.
The study also noted several lifestyle factors that contribute to living longer.
Smoking and overconsumption of alcohol were the two most significant lifestyle factors which reduced long-term survival rates in men. While the study of men's health is typically focused on diseases of the reproductive organs, conditions such as cardiovascular disease, or the shorter life expectancy for men compared with women, the journal notes elsewhere in the issue that focusing primarily on these concerns may cause an important aspect of many men's lives to be overlooked: fatherhood.
Of the 108 million men in the United States, 66.3 million are fathers, yet JAMA observes that the physical and mental health effects of being a father are "understudied and largely unknown," and that the impact of fatherhood on men's health is an area which deserves more study.
Two U.S. elected officials are taking the study of men's health very seriously.
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y., have introduced bills to establish an Office of Men's Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and have created the Office of Men's Health Resource Center to promote their efforts.
The proposed Office of Men's Health within DHHS would "coordinate the fragmented men's health awareness, prevention, and research efforts now being conducted by federal and state government," according to the center.
Commentary in the JAMA issue notes that critics of the bill are concerned that the Office of Men's Health, as currently conceived, would focus primarily on issues such as prostate and testicular cancers and men's lower overall life expectancy when compared with women, and would largely ignore social factors such as fatherhood.
Either way, men's health needs greater attention. Men die six years earlier than women do on average, and suffer higher mortality rates than women do for the top ten causes of death.
Dr. Manny Alvarez is the managing editor of health news at Foxnews.com, and is a regular medical contributor on the FOX News Channel. He is chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Additionally, Alvarez is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.