Graeme Sainter: Scots men missing health memo

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Men aged over 50 score poorly on health knowledge and behaviour, according to a new survey by Saga. Despite the millions pumped into public health campaigns about healthy eating and disease awareness, I’m surprised to see that men are simply missing the memo.

Of almost 12,000 men and women surveyed by Saga Health Insurance, more than 60 per cent in Scotland admit that they don’t eat the recommended five-plus a day of fruit and vegetables compared to half of women, while one in five don’t do any exercise.

However, what worried me most about the research was that men’s awareness of the symptoms of many of the big killers such as bowel and prostate cancer was worryingly low.

This year is the tenth anniversary of the death of entertainer Bob Monkhouse from prostate cancer and five years on from his ground-breaking posthumous TV commercial, which urged men to be on the lookout for symptoms of the disease.

Since then, the NHS and various charities have campaigned consistently for more public awareness of this and other diseases, yet less than one in ten men in Scotland said that they would go to the doctor as the result of an NHS public awareness campaign.

Furthermore, 40 per cent of the men aged over 50 surveyed still don’t know the symptoms of prostate cancer, and whilst those living in Scotland are more likely to be aware of the warning signs of this silent killer, they were less likely than those living elsewhere to know the symptoms of bowel cancer.

Men are also less likely than women to know symptoms of cancers such as skin cancer (54 per cent men v 71 per cent women) and lung cancer (37 per cent men v 51 per cent women).

The study also found that men are slightly less likely than women to visit the doctor when they discover a new health problem (47 per cent v 53 per cent), while almost a quarter wouldn’t even go to their GP if they were in severe pain.

I am sure that many men, like me, prefer to check any changes in their health online first.

In response, Saga has developed a completely free health app that contains information and fact sheets on around 800 medical conditions and health topics.

Further information can be found at www.saga.co.uk/insurance/health-insurance/health-app.aspx

Graeme Sainter is head of health insurance for Saga