Why Men are Reluctant to Seek Medical Care and the Risks they Face
It’s well-known that women tend to outlive men by an average of five to six years. The answer as to why can be broken down into biological differences and health disparities, as well as many psychological theories. Over the past few years, more and more experts have leaned toward the psychological; studies have shown that men of all backgrounds are significantly reluctant to seek a doctor’s help and that, often, women in the home drive medical care.
A popular 2019 Cleveland Clinic study revealed that nearly 72 percent of men would rather do household chores than visit the doctor. Only half of those surveyed reported getting their annual check-up, and around 20 percent admitted to not being “completely honest” with their doctors.
Jefferson Health in New Jersey’s Chief of Medicine, Ricardo Perez, DO, JD, FACOI, notes that, in his own career, he’s witnessed a trend for female patients to take a more proactive role in their healthcare experience.
Why is this?
The men surveyed provided reasons along the lines of embarrassment and upbringing. Boys are raised to “be a man” and not complain about weakness or pain. Physicians across the country have weighed in with other possible factors, such as fear of being told that something is seriously wrong; embarrassment/vulnerability; difficulty relinquishing control; and even a false sense of immunity or immortality.
“Men need to accept that as they age, their bodies can’t do the same things they used to,” said Dr. Perez. “You can’t just ignore symptoms and say, ‘I’m fine,’ until things are no longer fine.”
As a physician, Dr. Perez knows the repercussions he would face if he didn’t stay on track with his health. Without regular checkups, there are longstanding risks for hypertension, kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, prostate cancer, and more – complications that can be managed, treated, and prevented.
While facing the possibility of any of these isn’t easy, facing the facts about the health gap between men and women can be even more daunting. The CDC reports that more men die from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and unintentional injuries than women. Additionally, according to the American Cancer Society, men run a particularly high risk for prostate, colon, lung, and skin cancers.
The push for men to look into prostate cancer screening after age 40 is largely in part to how “insidious” the onset is, says Dr. Perez. In other words, it often develops so subtly that you won’t know about it until it becomes severe – unless you get screened.
“It’s also common – and understandable – to be hesitant about more invasive exams, such as colonoscopies,” explained Dr. Perez. “However, there needs to be a better understanding of the danger that evolves from waiting and the importance and effectiveness of early detection. We need to remind men that when cancers are caught early, the chance for survival is much higher.”
Cancer reports have also shown that less than 40 percent of men in the U.S., ages 55-69, have had proper prostate cancer screening. In turn, around 65 percent of women in the U.S., age 40 and over, have had their annual mammogram.
“Men should strive to have the same success rates, not because the numbers look good, but because their health depends on it,” continued Dr. Perez.
He also pointed out that proper medical care and disease prevention could help cut down the cost of Medicare and other means of health insurance. Basic exams and check-ups cost much less than the price of being hospitalized for surgery and/or going through extensive cancer treatment.
“Avoiding care is never the answer. Men should trust their doctors and take part in keeping themselves healthy,” said Dr. Perez. “Women get it. It’s time for men to get it too.”
For more information on Primary & Specialty Care Services at Jefferson Health New Jersey, click HERE.