Men are the majority of addiction patients but addiction prevention programmes appear to have neglected them. That’s the verdict of the director of the Swiss Institute for the prevention of alcoholism and other addictions.
Men become addicts easily, he argues. In treatment centres and hospitals, they represent the vast majority of the patients. However, while, during the fifteen last years, many prevention projects have developed for women, those for men have been missing. ‘In the development of gender sensitive approaches, men’s needs and difficulties have been forgotten,’ says Michel Graf, director of the Swiss Institute for the prevention of alcoholism and other addictions (ISPA) which recently published a report on Men and Dependences (Genre masculin et dépendances).
The report, commissioned by the Federal Office of Public Health, gathers basic scientific data and makes recommendations to change men’s health behaviours and conception. The report underlines that each sex has its specific needs which should be taken into account in the design of prevention and health promotion campaigns.
The report points out some typical men’s health behaviours: men do not pay much attention to their body or their health, they particularly drink and smoke more than women. Some 85% of the individuals who have broken the Federal law on cannabis consumption are men. A majority of men considers their job as more important than their health. ‘The stereotype of the strong man with no limits or pain is a risk factor for men’s health’, says Graf.
The consumption of psychoactive substances is a real issue for young and teen male as it is a privileged way of proving their masculinity and answering social expectations. In the case of alcohol consumption, men have to show their abilities to hold on and at the same time to go to extremes. This is a dangerous game leading to risk behaviours such as drink-driving. The report also stresses that men do not listen to their body, talk rarely about their emotions and feelings, and tend not to ask for help. In most cases, men recognise their addictions later than women and recognition is often linked to legal or professional problems induced by their addictive behaviour.
‘We need preventive approaches specific to boys and young men, which would take into account men’s typical risk behaviours’, explains Graf. Moreover, gender sensitive approaches and gender mainstreaming should be implemented in all therapeutic aspects at all levels. Taking gender into account when dealing with addiction issues should become self-evident.
- Download the full report here (PDF)
- Swiss Federal Office of Public Health website