According to the 2011-2013 figures for Australia, the predominant cause of death for men aged 15-44 is suicide, followed by accidental poisoning and transport accidents. Then, after the age of 45, coronary heart disease becomes the predominant cause of death.
There is a potentially disturbing sociological story to tell from these figures.
Let’s start with the backdrop of men being the so called, dominant sex – the ones with seemingly more control in many areas of life and the ones who have traditionally dominated local, national and global leadership roles.
Then let’s consider the fact that the top three causes of death for this age group are men intentionally or accidentally killing themselves, through drug and alcohol overdose, or vehicle accidents.
We only need to imagine the kind of inner turmoil, grief or emotional suppression that would lead to someone feeling like suicide is a less painful option than living. This is daunting enough to consider without adding accidental poisoning and transport accidents to the equation. In essence, the top three causes of death for this age group have one thing in common – men are essentially doing it to themselves either on purpose or through sheer neglect.
This time of life is often referred to as the ‘prime’ of their lives, yet even in their ‘prime’ there is something about that life that too many men want to erase, numb or obliterate in a vehicle.
However, the picture changes once men reach the age of 45, and not for the better. For men over the age of 45, coronary heart disease (heart attack) takes over as the number 1 killer (14.8% which is close to double any other cause of death).
So after men move through the ‘prime’ of their lives, they no longer take their own lives, but then the most common cause of death is a literally a broken heart.
If we take a moment to appreciate the traditional symbolism of the heart, the story becomes more significant. The heart is seen as the centre of sensitivity on a feeling level, and energetically as a point of connection to oneself.
The symbolism of this is significant. First men in their younger years are feeling so overwhelmed that too many opt to take their own life, and as they get older their centre of connection (their heart) gives out. This means that even though the mechanism of death has changed, the root cause of death for men has not – and that is the fact of disconnection from themselves, and from life.
It is beyond ironic that after centuries of men being local and global leaders, that the resulting society has left men in charge of so many others but out of touch with themselves and out of control of their own lives.
There is little doubt that society needs to get engaged in a more real and honest conversation about the male stereotype we have created.
Could it be that the warrior male, the sporty male, the intelligent male, the hipster male, the new age male, the father male, the arty male and all the other variants that we think make us the man we are, are failing on one single and critical front? They are failing to deliver the kind of life that doesn’t make a man want to kill themselves or result in them dying with a broken heart from a life of disconnection.
What is clear though is that it is a conversation that needs to start and it is only men that can start and sustain it.
Much is said about the importance of leadership and being the boss or team captain. But could it be, we have missed the most important leadership role and that is the captaincy of our own lives and bodies?
Yes, we are captain of our lives, but for too many men that vessel is called the titanic.
 Supplementary data for Leading causes of death (221KB XLS) http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129553294