Health

Published: Sunday December 11, 2011 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday August 21, 2013 MYT 2:22:08 PM

Getting into his head

Research on psychosocial issues in men’s health.

THE world does not know what to do with the sudden explosion of the ageing population.

An entire cohort of baby boomers have just entered retirement, with many of them – particularly men – losing the positions or roles that have defined them for most of their adult lives. Moreover, many of these retired are struggling with health problems, as well as physical and mental changes that had never plagued them before.

Ageing is a phase of life so fraught with disease and dysfunction, frailty, as well as uncertainty.

While the more obvious problems are those like chronic diseases and dysfunctions that manifest in older age, we must also be well-prepared for psychosocial issues among ageing men, such as depression, empty nest syndrome and quality of life.

We also need to be aware of how men are coping with this stage of life, in terms of their lifestyles, health-seeking behaviours and social support.

The Malaysian Men’s Health Initiative (MMHI) attempts to answer some of these questions through several key community studies carried out among men in Malaysia.

The findings from these studies have recently been compiled into a publication called Managing Men’s Health: Improving Men’s Health Through Research, a book that provides a snapshot of the status of men’s health in Malaysia.

This article highlights some of the research findings on psychosocial issues among ageing men in Malaysia, concluding a four-part series for this column, which previously covered erectile dysfunction, testosterone deficiency syndrome and prostate diseases.

Coping with ageing

We know about the diseases that ageing men develop. We may even know how many ageing men suffer from these problems and how to treat them. But we know very little about how men feel about these problems and how they cope with them.

The MMHI looked at men’s satisfaction with their quality of life in the 2005 Asian MALES (Men’s Attitudes to Life Events and Sexuality) study. Out of 10,934 Asian men, 3,000 Malaysian men aged 20-75 were interviewed on their perceived importance of various domains of quality of life (health, family/home life, relationship with partner/wife, work-life, sex life and overall contentment) and their actual satisfaction with the corresponding domains.

The findings of this study were most interesting. It was found that Malaysian men are only moderately satisfied with their health status and least satisfied with their sex life. In fact, they do not consider their sex life to be an important priority for quality of life.

If men do not think that sex is important, they are probably not seeking help for their problems. This shows that there is potentially a wide range of issues that are being neglected, as poor sex life could be due to sexual dysfunctions that have a medical cause.

Furthermore, some sexual dysfunctions are clues to other co-morbidities, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Sexual problems are also closely linked with depression, as the MMHI found in their 2003 Klang Valley Men’s Health Community Study. The study revealed that men with erectile dysfunction also suffered from depression, suggesting that the management of ED should take into consideration the psychological state of patients.

Conversely, the treatment of sexual dysfunctions and hormone problems in ageing men can contribute towards an improvement in quality of life.

MMHI’s Nebido® study compared how men with testosterone deficiency fare with and without testosterone replacement therapy. The results showed that men do better after they have received testosterone treatment, and suggest that aging men’s sexual problems urgently need to be addressed.

Getting help and support

Men generally have poorer health outcomes compared to women, because men are less likely to seek medical care for prevention and treatment of medical conditions, or delay seeking help until they encounter a crisis.

The 2003 Klang Valley study and the 2005 Asian MALES study looked at men’s health-seeking behaviours and the type of social support that aging men receive. The Klang Valley study sought answers regarding the type and frequency of medical check-ups that men go for, as well as what kind of social support they receive from the people around them.

The Asian MALES study investigated the factors that influence men’s decision to seek treatment for ED. The Managing Men’s Health: Improving Men’s Health Through Research book elaborates on the findings from these studies.

The way forward

MMHI’s research on men’s health answers some crucial questions about how men in Malaysia are faring. But more importantly, MMHI also identifies where gaps of knowledge still exist and what is the way forward for men’s health research in Malaysia.

Despite all the available knowledge about health issues facing ageing men, one of the biggest issues that healthcare providers still grapple with is how to get men to seek and embrace preventive healthcare.

Our national healthcare resources cannot cope with an ageing population that is riddled with illnesses and largely dependent on the state for welfare. We need to use what we have learned to help men improve their health. We need to teach men how to maintain good health into their later years, and to embrace this next phase of their lives productively.

Through its research, programmes and initiatives, MMHI strives to be a strong, dependable partner for men who are prepared to take charge and persevere to improve and maintain their health throughout their adult lives.

Managing Men’s Health: Improving Men’s Health Through Research is the latest publication by the Malaysian Men’s Health Initiative (MMHI), and is available for policymakers, researchers, academicians, healthcare professionals, pharmaceutical companies and members of the public. To obtain copies, please contact Karvina or Vanitha, Sime Darby Medical Centre, 1 Jalan SS12/1A, Subang Jaya, 47500 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Tel: 03-56396779; email: perandro@streamyx.com; fax: 03-56391870. Please make a donation of RM30 per copy payable to the Malaysian Society of Andrology and the Study of Aging Male. Proceeds go toward the research funds of MMHI. The book can be delivered to any address within Malaysia by mail or courier without additional charge.

Members of MMHI include: Prof Datuk Dr Tan Hui Meng, Assoc Prof Dr Ng Chirk Jenn, Prof Dr Low Wah Yun, Prof Dr Khoo Ee Ming, Assoc Prof Dr Tong Seng Fah, Dr Verna Lee Kar Mun, Dr Lee Boon Cheok, Prof Dr George Lee Eng Geap, Assoc Prof Dr Zulkifli Md. Zainuddin, Assoc Prof Dr Christopher Ho Chee Kong, Assoc Prof Dr Ong Teng Aik, Dr Yap Piang Kian and Dr Goh Eng Hong.

Tags / Keywords: Health, Lifestyle, Health, psychosocial issues, men's health

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