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Rural men face greater risk of health problems, including suicide

Blog post | 17 Dec 2019

Men who live in rural and remote Australia — and make up one third of the male population — are more likely than city dwellers to have health risks and suffer chronic conditions.

Here's why and, if you are a rural man, what you can do about it.

Why are rural men at a disadvantage?

People who live in remote areas don't have the same access to healthcare that city dwellers have. They are also more likely to live with social and economic disadvantage, which is strongly linked to poor health.

And statistically, rural men are more likely to be involved in risky health behaviours, such as smoking and heavy drinking, which can lead to chronic conditions.

Prostate cancer survival rates are lower in rural men

For any form of cancer, very remote areas have the lowest survival rates (major cities have the highest). This is includes prostate cancer, which is predicted to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men in 2019.

For every 100 men who die of prostate cancer in Australian cities, 121 men die of prostate cancer in rural and remote Australia. —Medical Journal of Australia

A recent Australian study has also found that a significant number of men (rural and urban) who do survive prostate cancer are living with anxiety and depression — even 10 years after their diagnosis.

What you can do about it

You have a very good chance of surviving prostate cancer if it's detected early, so it's important to know the symptoms of prostate cancer.

If you're aged 50 or over, next time you see a doctor ask about a PSA screening test, which measures prostate-specific antigen in the blood.

If you're 45 and have a family history of prostate cancer or you are of African or Caribbean descent, ask your doc about it even sooner.

The PSA test is not a diagnostic test — and is not suitable for everyone — but elevated levels of PSA could warrant further investigation.

Remoteness is a risk factor for suicide

Data shows that people who live rurally or remotely are twice as likely to die from suicide than people who live in major cities.

According to the National Rural Health Alliance, the reasons country men are more at risk of suicide include:

  • loneliness
  • stress caused by drought, flood, bushfires, losses and other adversities
  • financial insecurity
  • alcohol and drug misuse
  • untreated mental illness
  • the social stigma of seeking help for mental health in small communities

What you can do about it

You can get help with mental health issues without leaving your home. Contact these organisations for help:

  • Lifeline offers free telephone counselling (24 hours a day), online support (7pm-midnight) and text support (6pm-midnight), as well as a tool kit for people living in drought-affected communities. Call 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.

  • Suicide Call Back Service provides free 24-hour phone, video and online counselling. Call 1300 659 467 or visit suicidecallbackservice.org.au.

  • Beyond Blue offers free telephone counselling (24 hours a day) and online support (3pm-midnight). Call 1300 22 4636 or visit beyondblue.org.au.

  • MensLine offers free 24-hour phone and online counselling to men. Call 1300 78 99 78 or visit mensline.org.au.

  • Developed in conjunction with the University of South Australia, ifarmwell is a free online toolkit that helps farmers cope with challenges such as drought.
Community-based Men's Sheds offer a place for men to talk shoulder-to-shoulder with each other, which can combat isolation and improve wellbeing and mental health. There are more than 1,000 Men's Sheds in Australia — including many in rural and remote areas. Visit the Australian Men's Shed Association to find one near you.

Rural men are more likely to be obese

Obesity is prevalent everywhere in Australia, but three-quarters of men living in rural and remote areas are overweight or obese. Overweight and obesity increases the risk of many chronic conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, asthma and dementia.

Why are rural men at risk of being overweight? It can be harder to access healthy and affordable produce in some regions and country dwellers are typically more reliant on cars.

Are you at risk?

Find out if you're at risk of heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes in just a few minutes using the healthdirect Risk Checker.

What you can do about it

You can check your body mass index (BMI) — a good gauge of weight in most people — using the calculator here. You can also follow the steps to measure your waist circumference, which indicates your level of visceral fat, the harmful fat that coats internal organs.

If your BMI is above 25, you may be overweight and if it's above 30, you could be obese and should seek advice about making healthy lifestyle changes now.

If you live in New South Wales, Queensland or South Australia you can access the Get Healthy Service.

The Get Healthy Service provides free, personalised, telephone-based health coaching, which can help you improve your diet, activity level, reduce your alcohol intake and more. To learn more, visit or call:

For more help

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