June is Men’s Health Month. This year’s theme is “Healthy Habits.” Given the continuing decline in men’s life expectancy, there’s an urgent need for us to increase practicing healthy habits. Let’s consider some numbers.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows life expectancy in the United States is the lowest it has been for the past 25 years. Between 2019 and 2021, the drop was 3.1 years for men and 2.3 years for women. The decline is even more drastic for racial and ethnic minorities. For those identifying as Hispanic, the decrease was 4.2 years, and for Black folks, it was 4 years. Native Americans experienced the steepest decline with life expectancy dropping by 6.6 years. Life expectancy is lower for men than women across all racial and ethnic groups. Black men have the lowest life expectancy of all racial/ethnic groups. 

In Philadelphia, the life expectancy varies depending on where you live in the city. The COVID pandemic as well as reported increases in heart disease and chronic liver disease contributed to much of the decline in life expectancy across the country. However, there has also been an increase in drug overdoses and deaths by suicide across the city. According to the Pa. Department of Health, suicide among men in Philadelphia is attributed more to depression or other mental health challenge than any other health cause. 

If depression continues to be is a major factor in suicide among men, then why aren’t more men seeking treatment? Do we feel helpless to do anything about it? Is it difficult to get treatment? Or do we simply leave our mental health to chance and hope or pray it gets better on its own?

As we consider adding healthy habits to our lifestyle, let’s consider normalizing and encouraging each other to seek help when we feel depressed, anxious, or any other way that’s distressing. Here are some suggestions:

  1. See your primary care doctor to make sure your body is operating well. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, get one!
  2. There is no health benefit to using tobacco products or vaping. If you do either, stop! Quitting is arguably the single most helpful health improvement you can make. Call 800-QUIT-NOW for free support and resources.
  3. Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you consume. At the very least, find a couple that you like and eat more of those. 
  4. Be mindful of your mood. If you’re feeling down, angry, or anxious, acknowledge the feeling and get help. Call 888-545-2600 and Community Behavioral Health can assist with connecting you to someone. Your primary care provider can also assist you with getting help.   

We owe it to ourselves, our families, and our communities to live long healthy lives.   

About the Author: Frank Johnson, Ph.D., is the Director of Primary Care Behavioral Health at Community Behavioral Health, a division of the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services.