‘Men die earlier than women in Zimbabwe’
Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Health Reporter
THE Bible speaks of humans who lived the longest in the history of mankind, the oldest having died at the age of 969 years – Methuselah.
Those who lived the longest are all men. Although less is said about matriarchs, it’s quite clear that men lived longer back then.
Sadly, centuries later an average Zimbabwean male is expected to live for about 61, 2 years with statistics showing that men account for more deaths in the country compared to women. Women live significantly longer than men as they have a higher life expectancy of 68 years.
Life expectancy refers to the number of years a person can expect to live and it is based on an estimate of the average age that members of a particular population group will be when they die.
According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency report based on population and housing census carried in 2022, throughout all age-groups, males had higher mortality rates compared to females.
The report shows that 120 070 deaths were recorded during the census with 53, 6 percent of the dead being men and 46,4 percent being women.
Preliminary national census results revealed that females constitute the majority of the population, numbering 7 889 421 or 52 percent compared to the male population of 7 289 588 (48 percent).
In terms of births, males also dominated as the national sex ratio at births stands at 103 males per 100 females.
Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum gender programmes officer Ziphongezipho Ndebele said poor health seeking behaviour and culture of silence amongst men was the cause of those deaths.
He said main are unlikely to open up about issues affecting them hence they are more at risk to lifestyle related deadly diseases like depression, hypertension and diabetes.
“I think it’s true that more men are dying compared to women. If we take a look into our communities you will find that we have elder women than men. Women live a bit longer than men as males don’t like seeking healthcare services. They only go to hospital when they are really sick and diseases are likely to cause harm in men compared to women,” said Ndebele.
“Men like taking risks because of societal pressures, men overwork just to remain relevant in society. Drinking and driving and abuse of drugs and alcohol is common in men and the same take up dangerous activities like illegal mining.”
Ndebele said men are also less socially connected as they only talk about business when they meet.
“That social disconnection causes them to easily fall into depression than women hence the high prevalence of suicide. They don’t share social issues or seek counselling mainly because they were taught not to cry etc. They die from silent killers without knowing, and if these issues do not change, the trend will be maintained,” added Ndebele.
Men’s Conference Podcast director Makhosi Sibanda said the high number of deaths amongst men is socially.
“Emotionally, men are not really strong so they don’t socialise a lot they keep to themselves, they hardly share. That makes it easy for them to be stress and even develop depression. Men are daring, go any lengths just to provide for their families and they can easily succumb to accidents, dangerous eating behaviours and drinking behaviours which can cut their lives short,” said Sibanda.
Community Working Group on Health director Itai Rusike said it was interesting to note that in Biblical times, men lived longer than women.
“Interestingly in the Bible it is accounts of men who lived long lives! Abraham 400 years, Noah 300, Moses 200, we heard Sarah had a baby at 90 when her husband was 100 years,” he said.
“Science has studies that have shown female foetuses have more resilience than males and vice versa when it comes to survival,” he said.
“During teenage years, boys are more adventurous and more risk taking than the girls: smoking, alcohol, other substances abuse, other risky activities. There are traditional, lifestyle and peer activities that demote rather than promote longevity of life.
Girls are largely more protected and adopt healthier behaviours, including nutrition,” said Rusike.
He said culture was the main culprit as it expects more from men thereby hindering them from being real during times of difficulty.
“Meanwhile, culture imposes on the young men to be strong, and take care of the weaker members of the family providing for them. They usually have no one to turn to for advice and no matter how tough they can’t be seen to give up,” said Rusike.
“In a country with huge levels of deaths, women have opportunities to express their grief and bereavement and stay active throughout the funeral wakes, memorial services, while men conduct assigned tasks of providing shelter, sitting and digging the grave, firewood etc. It’s a considered a sign of weakness to express your emotions by openly crying as a man. It’s the women who scream, sing, jump around and sing when a child excels, weds or graduates,” he said.
Rusike said in short, men are human and they should talk about their issues good and bad, get advice and not just soldier on.
“Even when sick they must admit I’m not feeling well and get help. Allow the wife or partner to assist and even provide for family according to the means.”
Local psychologist Jacqueline Nkomo said men should develop better coping mechanisms to live longer.
She said communities and families should offer support to men when they face difficulties so that men become comfortable with being vulnerable.
“Sadly our society belittles men who become vulnerable as we are taught that real men cannot cry. Men also like drinking their problems away which doesn’t solve anything but exposes them to diseases,” she said.
“Men also suffer from displacement anger; they don’t deal with real problems they would rather transfer the anger to someone or something. Our economy also contributes to men having low self-esteem due to materialism and class system that’s is why we have many men feeling like failures and eventually committing suicide.” -@thamamoe