Story: Men’s health

Page 2. Causes of men’s death, disease and injury

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Causes of death

The leading cause of death for men in 2013 was heart disease, followed by stroke and lung cancer. The causes of death were in the same order as for women, but the rate of heart disease among men was almost twice that of women. Death rates were considerably higher for Māori than non-Māori. Diabetes was an especially important cause of death in Māori men (the second highest death rate, over four times higher than in non-Māori men).

The death rates for all leading causes of death are declining in New Zealand men. The rate of decline has been particularly rapid for heart disease and stroke, due to a combination of improved prevention and better health-care services.

Both transport accidents and suicide are significant causes of death among men, especially younger men. The male rate for these in 2013 was almost three times the rate for women.

Prostate cancer, an exclusively male condition, was the fourth most significant cause of men’s death in 2013 – a rate similar to breast cancer among women.

Causes of sickness

The major causes of sickness in New Zealand men mirror the leading causes of death, with the addition of mental health problems, which are prevalent but rarely lethal. Depression is the leading cause of mental ill-health in New Zealand men; it is a greatly under-appreciated cause of disability. Mental illness among male prisoners is a major issue.

Man to man

From 2006, former All Black John Kirwan fronted an advertising campaign talking about depression, funded by the government’s suicide-prevention strategy. After the advertisements were screened, the Mental Health Foundation received an unusually large response from men.

As the population ages, various forms of dementia are likely to become more common. Gambling is also an increasingly important cause of adverse social, economic and health effects, especially among disadvantaged men.

Sexual health

In terms of sexual health, considerable attention has been given to HIV/AIDS, at least partly because of the successful advocacy of non-government organisations. In New Zealand in 2014, 190 men (89% of all cases) were diagnosed with HIV, almost three-quarters acquired through sex with men and most of the rest through heterosexual sex. In the same year, 22 men developed AIDS. Over half had acquired the virus through sex with men, and most of the rest through heterosexual contact. Fortunately, because of the impact of modern therapies, HIV/AIDS is now a very rare cause of death in New Zealand, responsible for the deaths of about 10 men each year.

In the early 21st century there was much attention in popular literature and advertising to men’s erectile dysfunction. Men’s clinics and several commercially available pills have emerged to treat the problem.

How to cite this page:

Robert Beaglehole, 'Men’s health - Causes of men’s death, disease and injury', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 1 July 2022)

Story by Robert Beaglehole, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 28 Apr 2020, updated 1 Jul 2017