Since June is Men’s Health Month, we are doing a blog series on health-related topics specific to men. Check back on our blog weekly to stay updated on men’s health and don’t forget to schedule a check-up!
That pang in your left abdomen has returned. Will you take an ibuprofen and power through the day, or make an appointment with your general physician? As it turns out, your gender is likely to inform which (if any) action you take next. Studies show, women are more likely than men to seek out health care.
The result of forgoing routine health care is just what you might suspect; limited care is one factor contributing to serious diagnoses and shorter life spans for men. So, why exactly are men resisting trips to the doctor? And, more importantly: What can we do about it?
What’s Keeping Men from Seeking Care?
When asked why they don’t get routine medical care such as an annual physical, men often report vague issues like a busy schedule. But we suspect there’s more to it than that. When researchers dug a little deeper, they discovered a few common themes popping up around this troubling trend.
According to Harvard and Rutgers, men who self-report traditional views on masculinity are also less likely to get consistent health care. There appears to be a correlation between holding the belief that men should be strong and self-reliant (and slow to show emotion) and resisting routine exams.
Fear of Diagnosis
Many men also report a fear of diagnosis. In a 2016 online survey, more than 20% of respondents said being nervous to find out what could be wrong was a roadblock to scheduling an annual exam. Unfortunately, waiting on symptoms to become acutely painful or otherwise unavoidable is not a good health plan.
Uncomfortable with Exams
In the same survey, men reported being uncomfortable with certain body exams. In particular, rectal exams and other invasive tests are apt to give men pause about seeking preventative care. This issue may be tied into the idea of masculinity as well. After all, some intimate exams make us feel vulnerable.
Closing the Care Gap Between Men and Women
Men are twice as likely to wait more than two years between doctor visits. In fact, for all the reasons listed above and more, more than 40% of men don’t go to the doctor at all unless they have a serious issue on their hands. Closing the health care gap between the genders is not an easy task, but here are a few things we can all do to help fix the problem:
Do Some Research
Are you a man who can’t be convinced by anecdotal evidence that visits to the doctor are inherently good? Investigate data-supported recommendations for how often you should get checked for specific health factors or illnesses. For instance, men over the age of 35 should have their cholesterol checked every five years. Be empowered with knowledge about why routine check-ups are important and can even be lifesaving. Have a stubborn data-driven man in your life? Go to him with facts and figures and see if it makes a difference.
Nag your Loved Ones
It turns out almost 20% of men admit to going to the doctor just so a loved one will stop bothering them about it. Nag your loved ones about going to the doctor for annual check-ups – you might just help him get an early diagnosis! At the very least, you can both breathe a sigh of relief when he gets a clean bill of health.
Be Honest With Your Doctor
Unfortunately, men who report traditional views of masculinity are not only less likely to go to the doctor, they are also less likely to be honest about their health history and current symptoms. Choose a doctor you’re comfortable with and be honest with them about what’s really going on. This enables them to arm you with information and a path toward treatment if necessary. The more often you’re open, the easier it will become, and the less you’ll cringe at the thought of an exam.
Avoiding the doctor won’t make your health issues go away. Lean on your support network (taking a buddy to the doctor doesn’t make you weak), and find a doctor you can really trust. You’ll thank yourself later for taking care of yourself today.