Men’s health is an interesting subject. In my mind, it conjures up images of rough and tumble middle aged men with five o clock shadows and lean muscular arms. It also makes me think of that deer in the headlights stare I get from nearly every man in my life when I utter the words, “you should get that checked out.” As a woman, it has always mystified me why men hate going to the doctors. Like asking for directions, going to the doctor is one of those stereotypical things that “guys just don’t do.” Doctors I talked to confirmed this. Many of them said things like “men only go to the doctor if they are bleeding”
When I started preparing for the marathon of social media posts and blogs in support of men’s health month, I was a bit taken aback by the statistics — 50% of men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, men die on average of 5 years earlier than women. Generally, men get sick more often, experience more pain and live shorter lives. There is a gender gap in the health status between men and women and men’s reluctance to go to the doctor is a contributing factor.
So what is going on…
Men’s health month gave me a great opportunity to talk to guys about their health and learn a bit more about where they are coming from. At first pass, most guys give pretty brief responses about why they don’t like going to the doctor, but I found if I probed and listened, I could learn a bit more. Here are some things that I heard (sometimes reading between the lines).
“We Don’t Trust Them”
In conversations about trust, we seemed to circle around the notion that there are all types on incentive structures built into the healthcare industry. Everything from insurance coverage to pharmaceutical companies can influence a practitioner’s decision-making which makes some men question if doctors really have their best interest at heart.
“Waste of time”
For many men, going to see a doctor becomes a “thing.” You have to schedule it, take time off work, drive there, mentally prepare. When something becomes a “thing,” there is a desire for resolution. The last thing you want to hear if you take your car in to get fixed is that you need to bring it back. You want it fixed. So, men go to the doctor expecting to fix sometime. They can get frustrated by the process, by the short time the doctor spends with them or by not getting tools to solve the problem.
“Got better things to do”
A man has priorities. He has a family to care and provide for, a job to perform at and people who count on him. I heard a lot of men putting their health in the backseat because they are putting themselves last. I am continually floored by how many men live their lives in a deep, silent self-sacrificing manor.
“Nothing but bad news”
In the quiet of my darkened living room, I started talking with my dad. I said, “You know, we’ve been harping on you for a long time, what’s your reason for hesitating?” I brought up all the things I had heard from other men. He sat for a long moment and considered deeply, then he said, “No, if I was to be completely honest. I would have to admit that I’m a bit afraid of the unknown. If I go to the doctor all I can get is bad news. Things are either status quo or worse.”
Underneath it all, we are all human and our health is the most intimate of subjects. Underneath what appear to be lame excuses, many men have very valid reasons that they tend to shy away from healthcare. Men’s health month is a great opportunity to learn and find ways to make healthcare more accessible to men. We have a responsibility to close the gender gap in healthcare to keep the men we love in our life around for the long haul.