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Men's shelf life

A men's magazine with a difference? Not really, it should still be on a higher shelf

Men are sadly underrepresented in general practice. Two-thirds of consultations in our practice are with females, and when you factor in the fact that male and female children consult more or less equally, then it is apparent that adult males turn up at the doctor's spectacularly less frequently than their partners.

It is not obvious why this should be the case. Men, on average, live for five fewer years than women, so perhaps we should be seeing a bit more of them. Screening in general practice is exclusively a female preserve. We do mammograms and cervical screening routinely, and women on the contraceptive pill and HRT are fairly closely monitored. This does not make a lot of sense when you look at their comparatively favourable lifespan.

Men's Health magazine should, on the face of it, seem to be a step in the right direction. Historically, there has been no shortage of men's magazines, but paradoxically these magazines have tended to feature women. Lots of women. Exclusively women. However, this publication advertises itself as entirely about the health of men.

Let's have a look at the front cover. It features a smiley, impossibly handsome bloke with the body of Arnold Schwarzeneggar, wearing seriously gay shorts. 'Build Big Arms Fast' screams one headline. 'Flatten Your Belly!' yells another. 'Eat Like A Pig, Look Like A God' we are exhorted, and 'Be Her Ultimate Sex Toy' is another bit of beguiling advice.

'120 Seconds To Leaner Looks', '29 Fast Fixes For Your Health', '7 Belly-busting Brekkies', '32 Style Secrets', and we have to conclude that we are not making any progress in convincing our partners that we are not helplessly obsessed with numbers and sex.

On opening the magazine, things do not get much better. The problem page is usually a useful barometer of any publication. So what are our health-conscious men worried about?

'Doing weights gives me piles. How can I get the muscle benefit without re-aggravating them?' I confess I did not have the fortitude to read the reply. 'When I pee it shoots out in the wrong direction. I have to stand at an angle at the urinals. What can I do?' What indeed?

The magazine is full of articles about Angelina Jolie, adverts for mobile phones and protein supplements, pictures of jet-skis and features on training shoes.

We are exhorted to make love like a ninja warrior, in order to blindly bind our women to us. There is an article about premature ejaculation; not that this could ever happen to us, you understand, but we might have a friend who suffers from it.

In slight mitigation, I found an article on tennis elbow (suggesting you can get it playing tennis; a clear impossibility) and one on child abuse, but on the whole this is not a magazine about men's health, this is another men's magazine about women.

Like all the


But two shelves lower down.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

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