I always say I first got interested in men’s health at a very precise moment.
It was while lying on my back with my underpants around my ankles and some sort of jelly substance being smeared all over my testicles by a nurse. There’s some poetic licence in this but it fitted the way in which men’s health was discussed 20 years ago. A bit of a joke.
It was – and is – a perfectly routine cancer-screening procedure but the sort of experience that for me, as for many men, came as a bit of an eye-opener in more senses than one. I wrote about it and my experience of cancer in All Right, Mate? It was my first attempt to write a health books for blokes who were too busy, too scared or too lazy to go to the GP. I’ve been trying to write men’s health articles that reach that enormous market ever since.
I was health editor on the now-defunct men’s magazine Maxim and a health columnist on the Daily Star. I have also written on the topic for The Observer, The Times, GQ and other men’s and women’s magazines.
I helped found the Men’s Health Forum and am currently editor of the Men’s Health Forum’s website as well as its publications. I’ve been involved in many Men’s Health Weeks (every June leading up to Father’s Day), designing and writing the material for several.
I’ve spoken to all sorts of men of all ages and backgrounds. Some have been seriously ill or have lived through life-changing health-related experiences; others have been rampant hypochondriacs or the sort of blokes who claim every sniffle is bubonic plague. All human life and then some. I’ve learned a lot. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned there’s still a need for easy, accessible, honest information. Even today, one man in five won’t see his 65th birthday.
The medical professions, the media and many mainstream health campaigners, despite their best intentions, communicate the wrong messages to men in the wrong way. They don’t really understand men. Those of us who drink too much, don’t do it because we don’t know it’s dangerous, we do it because it’s fun. Telling them not to misses the point. Health comes over as something dull and difficult.
It’s not. Health is not something you bolt on to your life or do as a chore. It is far, far easier than that – and for most people involves no more than the tiniest changes. Why? Because health has nothing to do with fitness. You only have to look around the average gym to see that a toned body does not make you healthy. Good health is between the ears.
My men’s health books
- Men’s Health (Haynes Concise) – coming September 2020
- The User’s Guide to the Male Body
(Highly Commended: Medical Journalists’ Association Open Book Awards 2010; Highly Commended: British Medical Association Book Awards 2010)
- All Right, Mate?
- I also have a chapter in Big Boys Don’t Cry by Patrick Addis and Fabian Devlin (2020) and one on working with men via the internet in Hazardous Waist by Alan White and Maggie Pettifer (Radcliffe, 2007)