BACK IN 1988, when the debut issue of Men’s Health came out, it was an interesting time to be a 35-year-old man.
First off, there were hardly any health magazines for men. The Internet was largely AOL (LOL). Everyone was reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, listening to Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and watching Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Our TV dads who weren’t (gulp) Dr. Cliff Huxtable were Dan Conner and Al Bundy, guys who were physically present with their families but always with a beer in a chair after a hard day’s work. On the big screen, a 35-year-old Michael Keaton bugged us out with Beetlejuice, and Bruce Willis, himself two years shy of turning 35, proved hard to kill in Die Hard.
We were entertained with a kind of pre-social-media chill, but really, how were we? Our Men’s Health research team dug through the data to determine the state of 35-year-old men then versus now. In general, a higher percentage of today’s men are exercising and taking care of their mental health, and fewer are smoking and drinking.
But a higher percentage are also carrying too much extra weight and taking prescription medication, and men today have fewer close friends than they did three and a half decades ago. We turned to the latest research and the experts on our advisory board to shed light on these shifts—and offer tips on how to turn the stats in your favor.
The factors that have led to this rise include pervasive food advertising and increased sedentary periods, plus the unknown effects of poor sleep and crash dieting. “Our hyperfocus on just a few of these has led us to neglect the multifactorial nature of this disease,” says Fatima Cody Stanford, M.D., M.P.H.,the director of diversity at Harvard’s Nutrition Obesity Research Center. Obesity is a lifestyle issue, not just a dietary one.
You love to see it, but also know that some of these guys may have switched to vaping, according to recent Gallup polling. Plus, smoking is still high among certain groups, especially the uninsured, people living below the poverty line, people who identify as gay or bisexual, and people who live in the Midwest or the South, according to the CDC.
Worry not for the fate of healthy men: Healthy levels of testosterone typically land between264 and 916 ng/dl. This slight dip over a quarter century might be attributed to an increase in the rates of chronic disease and obesity in men.
Avi Klein, L.C.S.W., a psycho-therapist and couples counselor in New York City, says he’s seen more clients pursuing open relationships.“People may be changing the nature of their relationships in a way that they might have only done previously by getting divorced,” he says. They may also not see marriage as essential and so may be more enthusiastic about it if they do marry.
More than three times as many men are receiving mental-health care today compared with 35 years ago. “I’m not surprised by it,” says Gregory S. Brown, M.D., author of The Self-Healing Mind. He credits the destigmatization of mental-health messaging, employers supporting mental wellness, and a visibility boost on social.
Paul is the Food & Nutrition Editor of Men’s Health. He’s also the author of two cookbooks: Guy Gourmet and A Man, A Pan, A Plan.