In recent years major health concerns for men in Australia have been caused by high rates of heart disease and stroke. However, cancers have also been leading causes of death with lung cancer, prostate cancer and cancer of the intestines heading the list. Mental health issues have become more recognized as a significant factor as suicide rates are considerably higher amongst men. Lifestyle factors also require careful scrutiny as diabetes is amongst the top 10 leading causes of death for men in Australia. 

Heart attack and related disorders

Cardiovascular disease, which includes all pathological conditions involving the heart and blood vessels (for example coronary disease, stroke, disease of the blood vessels and heart failure) has been described as the largest health problem in Australia. Coronary heart disease (CHD), including heart attacks (interrupted blood supply to the heart due to a blocked blood vessel) and angina (temporary chest pain caused by reduced blood supply to the heart), has been identified as the most common cause of sudden death in Australia. In a recent survey by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, CHD accounted for approximately 21% of deaths in Australia’s male population. However, while this remains a worrying figure, death rates due to CHD have been observed to decline in recent years. This encouraging observation may be the result of better prevention strategies and improved treatment approaches.


Stroke is a condition that is experienced when adequate blood supply to the brain becomes interrupted as a result of a blocked or ruptured artery. The outcome of such an event can often manifest as paralysis of different parts of the body or speech problems. In the male Australian population stroke is second only to CHD as a major contributor to death rates, accounting for 7.3% of male deaths in the year 2000. However, similarly to CHD death rates due to stroke have recently been observed to be declining. This is also likely a result of beneficial lifestyle changes and improvements in disease management.  


Cancer is the name given to a condition in which abnormal changes within body cells can cause them to multiply out of control. The resulting growth can damage surrounding tissues and organs and migration of the defective cells to other parts of the body can lead to extensive damage to a wide range of organ systems. Various forms of cancer are amongst the leading causes of death for both the males in Australia. Within the 45 to 64 year age group, cancer has overtaken CHD and stroke as the leading cause of death for men. In 2000, cancer deaths represented 45% of deaths among 55 to 64 year old males in Australia. Recent figures identify lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer related deaths in men in Australia. Annual rates of lung cancer were initially found to increase up until 1982, but since then a steady decline has been observed for the male population. Colorectal cancer represents the second most common cause of overall cancer deaths in Australia, with death rates somewhat higher in the male population. Death rates for this cancer have been more variable over the years. There has been fluctuation in the death rate for males (which was observed to climb between the early 1940s up until 1983). A more recent trend showed a decline in male colorectal cancer death rates. Prostate cancer represents the second most common cause of death for Australian males over the age of 70. The period between 1921 up to the early 1990s saw a slow increase in deaths due to prostate cancer. While a marked increase occurred in the early 1990s, since then an annual decrease in prostate cancer deaths has been observed between 1993 and 2000. However, prostate cancer still remains a major health concern for Australian men.


Type 2 diabetes mellitus (non-insulin-dependent diabetes) is a form of diabetes that usually makes its first appearance in adulthood, typically has milder symptoms than type 1 diabetes mellitus (insulin-dependent diabetes) and can be aggravated by obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Lifestyle factors are an important contributor to diabetes among the male population. In 2001, studies showed that more men were overweight, while obesity rates (as defined by Body Mass Index (kg/m2) were found to be similar for both sexes in Australia, the United States and Canada. This highlights the need for both sexes to adopt appropriate lifestyle changes as preventative measures against developing type II diabetes.

Mental health

Mental health is an important consideration for Australian men. Male suicide rates although fluctuating are between three to five times higher than the rest of the population. Since health initiatives have started focusing on combating youth suicide, a shift in suicide rates from high numbers amongst male youths (15-24 year olds) to a decline in youth suicide but increasing trend for suicide amongst older males (within the 25-39 year age group) has been observed. Thus strong incentives remain to direct more research towards elucidation of underlying mental health issues in the male population, in order to develop appropriate and effective preventative strategies for different age group.


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