Why men die younger, and how to beat the odds


Ironworkers workers erect the framework of a building on the Temple University campus in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A Pennsylvania State Data Center report shows men were 34 percent more likely to die than women in 2015, when looking at all age groups.

The study, which uses data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, reinforces other reports that show men tend to die younger than women.

In Pennsylvania, men had higher death rates than women in every category. That includes heart disease, cancer and other causes like suicide, drug overdose and accidents.

Family physician Joseph Irwin says some reasons for this are things nobody can control. Men are generally larger, making their bodies more susceptible to problems. Men are also more likely to work jobs such as construction and manufacturing that put them at risk of physical injury.

However, Irwin says, behavior also plays a role. Catching an illness early is one of the biggest factors in successfully treating it. Too many men put off going to the doctor until a problem is serious.

Preventative services such as going to regular checkups and getting routine screenings are also one of the biggest factors in catching a disease early.

“Men often like to come for problem-oriented things,” Irwin says. “They often won’t come in for just a physical.”

The problem is even worse for black men, who were more likely to die young than any other group in the report.

Jenny Englerth is CEO of Family First Health in York, a community health center that often works with minority communities.

Englerth says, historically, less access and distrust of doctors have posed challenges for African Americans.

Racial backgrounds aside, Englerth says men also tend to have less-healthy methods for coping with stress and depression than women. Alcohol and drug use add to existing problems and make health conditions worse.

She says, men can improve their odds of living long lives — but only if they start visiting their doctors.

Brett Sholtis
Brett Sholtis

Brett Sholtis was a health reporter for WITF/Transforming Health until early 2023. Sholtis is the 2021-2022 Reveal Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grantee for Mental Health Investigative Journalism with the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism. His award-winning work on problem areas in mental health policy and policing helped to get a woman moved from a county jail to a psychiatric facility. Sholtis is a University of Pittsburgh graduate and a Pennsylvania Army National Guard Kosovo campaign veteran.

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