There is an increasing prevalence of mental and emotional health issues that affect wellbeing in both men and women. However, numerous researchers have stated that there is a silent crisis in men’s mental and emotional health with evidence showing that men have increased rates of substance abuse, suicide, depression and anxiety. Standard therapy involving medications can be costly and also have many side effects including weight gain, therefore finding supportive solutions for modifiable factors can be beneficial.
Researchers from the University of South Carolina analyzed data from more than 5,000 men enrolled in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas. The data were part of the preventive health exams that were conducted at that clinic over a 15 year period. The men stated they had experienced emotional distress including 46% who reported depression, 58% had anxiety, 51% had a history of mental counseling and 8% reported ever having thoughts of suicide. The researchers found that men with the lowest cardiovascular fitness, based on exercise stress testing, tended to have higher weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol and blood sugar levels and were more likely to smoke and to be sedentary. In addition, men who reported more than one type of emotional distress were more common in the low-fitness group. Compared to the lowest-fitness group, men with moderate cardiovascular fitness were 46% less likely to die of any cause during the study, and those in the high fitness group were 53% less likely to die. Moderate level of fitness was defined as 30 minutes per day of an activity such as swimming, jogging or biking, and is the current level recommended under American sports medicine guidelines.
Why is this relevant?
- The incidence of mental and emotional illness is increasing and often is not noticed in men
- The most common mental issues affecting men are: substance abuse, depression and anxiety
- Regular, moderate, exercise of 30 minutes per day shown to improve cardiovascular health and reduce all-cause mortality in patients diagnosed with mental and emotional health issues
- Clinicians should assess patients for both physical and emotional wellbeing and encourage regular exercise in their patients who exhibit symptoms of mental and emotional distress