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The health problems facing Australian men today

Blog post | 14 Jun 2018

For some men, stressing about whether their team will make the World Cup Final is their biggest problem right now. For many others, challenges such as depression or infertility can seem insurmountable.

But support and treatments are available to men facing health issues, some of which are common. To mark Men’s Health Week, 11-17 June, here’s a round-up of what men (and the women close to them) should be looking out for — and talking about.

Androgen deficiency

Androgens are male sex hormones. Testosterone, the most important male hormone, allows a boy to develop into a man and is responsible for ongoing reproductive and sexual function. Androgen, or testosterone, deficiency occurs when the body is not able to make enough testosterone and although this is not life-threatening, it can affect a man’s quality of life. According to Andrology Australia, it’s likely that androgen deficiency is under-diagnosed in many men, who are missing out on treatment.

While the following symptoms could well be due to other illnesses, you should contact your doctor if you experience low energy levels, mood swings, irritability, poor concentration, reduced muscle strength or a low sex drive.

Depression and anxiety 

One in 8 men will experience depression and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety at some stage in their lives, according to beyondblue. In 6 out of every 8 suicides, it is men that take their own lives. In fact, the number of men who die by suicide in Australia is nearly double the annual national road toll.

But if you or someone close to you is struggling with depression, or is at risk of suicide, there is help available. You can call these helplines 24 hours a day: 

  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
  • MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78

Prostate and testicular cancers 

Prostate cancer is diagnosed mainly in men aged over 50 years and occurs when cells in the prostate grow and divide abnormally, creating a tumour. Excluding some forms of skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in Australian men, with more than 19,000 diagnosed each year.

Testicular cancer is less common, with up to 800 Australian men diagnosed per year. That said, it’s the second most common cancer in men aged between 18 and 39. There’s no way to prevent it, but a hard, generally painless lump in the testes is usually the most obvious symptom of testicular cancer. Thankfully, the chances of survival for men with testicular cancer — when promptly diagnosed and treated — are very high.

So, what can you do about it? All young men should regularly check their testicles for any lumps or swelling. You can read more about self-examination here.

Erectile dysfunction

Being unable to get or maintain an erection is very common, affecting at least 1 in 5 men aged over 40 years. Erectile dysfunction is not a disease, but a symptom of other problems, which can be physical or psychological or a combination of both. It can sometimes indicate diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure). So, it’s important to see your doctor if you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction. While treating any potential underlying cause they can also suggest treatments that will allow erections to happen.

Infertility 

Infertility is far from being ‘a woman’s problem’. Four in 10 cases of infertility are attributable to a problem in the man; 4 in 10 cases are attributable to a problem in the woman. Male infertility is usually caused by poor sperm transport or production (low numbers of sperm made in the testes, for example). But because ejaculation usually happens normally, the only way to diagnose infertility is through medical tests.

Male infertility can also be a sign of another health condition, such as testosterone deficiency (see ‘Androgen deficiency’, above) or testicular cancer, so it’s important to get checked out by your doctor if you’ve been trying for a pregnancy without success.

Tips to remember

Men’s Health Week supporter Andrology Australia advises all men to remember:


    It’s healthy to talk. Have a conversation with someone you trust.

    You are not alone. Many men experience problems with their reproductive health, and these are commonly linked to more serious problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, anxiety and depression.

    You need to stay informed. Knowing about potential problems is a good way to help avoid them. You can access a range of Andrology Australia fact sheets and information booklets here.

    Don’t ignore change. See your doctor if you have any concerns.


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