Debunking the myths and moving mens health forward

Multi-generational men

One of the world’s most comprehensive men’s health studies is informing important new approaches to preventative strategies, service delivery and the management of common conditions—and it’s being led right here in South Australia by the University of Adelaide. 

The Men Androgen Inflammation Lifestyle Environment and Stress (MAILES) study is a longitudinal study involving more than 2,500 men living in Adelaide’s north-west. Directed by our researchers Professor Gary Wittert, Professor Robert Adams, Dr Sean Martin and Professor Deborah Turnbull, it’s being used to better understand men’s health throughout the life cycle, and has already dispelled many myths and misconceptions. 

The study has shown, for example, that the ageing process itself does not decrease testosterone levels in men’s blood. “Rather, expanding waistlines are the main culprit,” says Professor Wittert. “A circumference over 95cm is a key indicator for low testosterone, in addition to its known association with increased type 2 diabetes risk.”

Conversely, diet-induced weight loss—an effective way to prevent type 2 diabetes in people at high risk of the disease—was found to boost testosterone levels. This triggered further research by our team to investigate testosterone’s potential role in preventing type 2 diabetes in men; Professor Wittert led an Australia-wide trial funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, with key findings to be released in 2020.

The MAILES team also found that lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) are frequent in men, and become increasingly prevalent with age, but are not—as commonly believed—synonymous with an enlarged prostate.

“Our study shows LUTS is more likely to reflect health problems remote from the prostate,” says Professor Wittert. “We found it’s an important clue to the presence of chronic disorders such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, inflammation and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).”

The link between LUTS and OSA—a condition where narrowing of the throat causes breathing difficulties, and a lack of restfulness, during sleep—is particularly important, explains Professor Wittert. “OSA is associated with a higher risk of many other serious health problems, and we found that it affects more than half of all men over 40; yet they’re often unaware they have it and need to seek treatment.”

The ongoing study has also challenged popular beliefs around men’s attitudes and behaviours regarding their health. Contrary to stereotypes, the research team found most men do use health services regularly and appropriately, but find the health system difficult to interact with effectively.

In all these areas, the MAILES study has already informed numerous health practice and policy guidelines, nationally and internationally, with more to come. For further information on the MAILES study, visit the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health website.


Published 19th February 2020


Tagged in Health and biotech, men's health, diabetes prevention, sleep apnoea, obesity, featured