Irish men’s food attitudes fuel health crisis

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Traditional gender stereotypes are still a barrier to healthy eating for some Irish men
Traditional gender stereotypes are still a barrier to healthy eating for some Irish men

Related tags: Nutrition

Men’s food behaviours in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland put them at a significant health disadvantage compared to women, according to a report from public health agency safefood.

The report, titled Men’s Food Behaviour​, focuses on the socio-economic factors that contribute to a lower all-Ireland life expectancy among men of about 77 years, compared to that of women, who can expect to live about 81.5 years.

Although some physiological differences are at work, such as the protective effect of oestrogen against cardiovascular disease, the report highlights factors such as poorer food hygiene practices among men, and a preference for larger portions, more fat and salt, fewer fruits and vegetables, and less awareness of healthy eating guidelines.

According to the report, about 70% of Irish men are overweight or obese, compared to about 50% of women.

“Our food environment and societal attitudes around masculinity play a role in influencing men’s food behaviour,” ​said Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health and Nutrition at safefood.

When it comes to food skills such as planning, purchasing, shopping, cooking and cleaning, women are more likely to be skilled in this area and still do most of this work. While there is an abundance of data on men and women’s food intake and dietary patterns, few studies have exclusively examined men’s attitudes and behaviours in relation to food and health. This report identifies how men view themselves and their relationship with food and is of importance for men’s health given their levels of overweight and obesity.”

The report found that men were less likely than women to influence their health through nutrition, but were more likely to consider the role of sport and exercise for health.

Barriers to men’s healthy eating identified in the report included overcoming traditional gender stereotypes, lack of education around food, confusion relating to the language used, perceptions of their ability, and the influence of advertising, career, life-stage and household make-up.

The full report is available to download here​.

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