Media Partners | Contributors | Advertise | Contact | Log in | Friday 21 January 2022

Men's Health Week: What are the biggest issues facing young men today?

10th June 2014

Share This Article:

9th – 15th June is Men’s Health Week, led by the Men’s Health Forum. This year’s theme is work, including stress and unemployment – something that is likely to be particularly prevalent for students and recent graduates.

With 11% of men who graduated in 2012 unemployed a year after completion of their course (according to The Independent, July 2013), we spoke to the charity to see what particular issues they have identified as being the biggest cause of stress for young men today.

The Men’s Health Forum’s Untold Problems report believes that “men as a sex face specific emotional and mental difficulties that society commonly misunderstands.” These issues include drug and alcohol dependency, school failure, suicide risk and involvement in crime, and together they conspire to make it “immensely challenging to engage men in a dialogue that encourages them to ask themselves whether they should be seeking help.”

The stats are difficult to deny: almost three quarters of people who kill themselves are men. 73% of adults who “go missing” are men. Men are three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent (6% vs. 2%), and are more than twice as likely to use Class A drugs (4.8% vs. 2%). 79% of drug-related deaths occur in men, they make up 94% of the prison population, and nearly all children permanently excluded from school are male. 72% of male prisoners suffer from two or more mental disorders, and men are also twice as likely to be victims of violent crime.

The report throws up a wide-ranging and deep-rooted set of problems that are specific to men, from relationships to job satisfaction to alcohol abuse – all of which are, of course, interlinked.  


It’s well known that boys are less likely to go to university than girls (32% of state-educated women are in Higher Education at the age of 19 compared to 25% of men). The report confirms that this is a particular problem for both white and Afro-Caribbean boys from poorer families, who “are doing particularly badly” and are “the least likely to be represented in HE.” The comparatively low attainment is seen in secondary school: white males have 30% below average attainment at GCSE, whilst for young Caribbean men it is 33%.

The report suggests that this may be because “boys feel compelled to conform to a

dominant view of masculinity which conceptualises academic work as ‘feminine’, and that ‘anti-school subcultures’ exist among boys from the most marginalised backgrounds - in which ‘specific forms of masculinity’ are manifested, in particular, by disruptive behaviour in class.”

Alcohol and drugs

Untold Problem states that “Male alcohol problems in particular may be under-considered. It is believed that up to 800,000 men may be alcohol dependent... in the minds of some men, drinking alcohol in quantity functions as a marker of masculine status.”

If this suggestion is representative of your own university experience, it’s hardly surprising. A 2006 study by the Mental Health Foundation found men more likely than women to use alcohol in order to be able to “fit in socially” - potentially suggesting that, “for whatever the reason, men do find membership of a social community more difficult to achieve than women.”

Drug use is more common in men than women - 26% of men aged 16–24 reported using cannabis in the previous year compared to 16% of women. Young men are more than twice as likely (11% vs. 6%) to have used class A drugs. Maybe unsurprisingly in light of this, men made up 79% of 1,573 drug-related deaths in 2008.

Why are young men turning to drugs so much more than women? There are doubtless a number of multifaceted reasons, but Untold Problems cites a Samaritans study from 1999 which found that “depressed young men were 10 times more likely (than women) to say that they would turn to drugs as a means of coping with distress.”


The general consensus that men hide their problems whilst women are much more likely to talk about them is true – and it’s likely that it is affecting men’s health and happiness.

A survey by Mind in 2009 found that 29% of men compared to 53% of women would discuss issues with friends if unhappy, whilst 31% compared to 47% of women would talk to their families.

And why is this? Are men really less close to their friends or family than women, or is it more complex than that?

Untold Problems cities a US study from 2000, which “found men much less likely than women to report intimate best friendships (23.5% of female friendships scored very highly on the scale, compared to only 7.5% of male friendships).” This is despite the fact that both men and women reported a strong desire for intimacy within their friendships.

The study suggests that this lack of perceived closeness within male friendships “has obvious consequences for the availability of emotional support and encouragement to seek help.”


Untold Problems notes that male suicide is “the most widely acknowledged of male mental health problems” and that it has in recent years “attracted public debate and coverage in the popular media.”

Suicide is a particular problem men aged 16-24, and “there are obvious links between suicide and depression, and a number of authorities have suggested that depression may be under-diagnosed in men” - possibly because men are less likely to ask for help than women.

Students are particularly vulnerable, according to Men’s Health Forum Head of Policy David Wilkins, because of exam pressures coupled with the sudden loss of support system experienced on leaving home.

Job satisfaction

Predictably, good mental health is inextricably tied to happiness at work – and the failure of a job to provide satisfaction“may predispose the individual to anxiety and depression.”

Whilst unemployment (and most men will experience this at some point in their lives, if not directly after graduation) brings its own emotional turmoil, a study from the Health and Safety Executive in 2004 found that men were less likely to receive emotional support from peers and managers and were less likely to have their role understood by others – whilst having higher levels of demand placed on them than women. All these factors were associated with the development of work-related stress.  

Add to this the fact that men in the UK work the longest hours in Europe, that 27% of men with full-time jobs in the UK work more than 45 hours a week (and 11% more than 60 hours), and it’s easy to get a picture of why work might place more of a strain on men’s lives than they’re willing to talk about.

So, what can be done about all of this? Although the Men’s Health Forum admits that it didn’t set out to provide solutions with Untold Problems, it does some offer some solutions as to why the above issues are so prevalent.  

The report says: “men often have mental health needs that are distinct from those of women and which are particularly associated with the lived experience of being male. Some of these needs are not being met as effectively as they might.

“This situation is compounded by the fact that in some circumstances some of the familiar cultural markers of masculinity are also potential symptoms of, or predisposing factors for, poor mental health. Many of these behaviours are so familiar that they seem indisputably “normal” even though it is easy to see that they are sometimes simultaneously damaging.”

It cites traditional gender roles that cause “families, peer groups, and many public and commercial institutions treat male and female children differently” as the reason why boys and girls develop different attitudes and behaviours, causing “particular social constructions of masculinity and femininity, which remain locked into our culture.”

Lack of emotional expressiveness, the propensity to “act out” emotional distress, and a reduced willingness to admit vulnerability are all behaviours that cause health issues in adult men. “Encouraging boys to become more sensitive to their own emotional needs,” says the report, “and the emotional needs of those around them will not solve all the problems but it has the potential to help considerably.”

It also suggests that improving the mental health of men should not just be a function of mental health services, and that there are “good arguments” in favour a national strategy for men’s mental – something that has already been called for by the Men’s Health Forum in 2006 and Mind in 2009.  

Phillip Hodson, Chief Spokesperson for the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, says: “We must urgently look beyond masculine stereotypes to understand the mental health needs of contemporary males... men are half as likely as women to be diagnosed with depression yet three times more likely to kill themselves because of it.”

This statistic, surely, is one that needs to be challenged – and quickly.

If you’re worried about your mental health, visit one of the below websites for help and advice:

Articles: 29
Reads: 163862
© 2022 is a website of Studee Limited | 15 The Woolmarket, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 2PR, UK | registered in England No 6842641 VAT # 971692974