We get it; men are supposed to be tough. Men are wired to be the fixers of problems and pain is “only temporary”. While more fiction than fact, those statements do have some truth to them, but what about when it comes to healthcare. Surveys show that more than 50% of men avoid going to see their physician and most claim that they only visit their doctor when really sick. Another survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians reveals that 55% of U.S. men have not been to a doctor for more than a year, and 40% of men in their 40’s have never had their cholesterol tested. That is a lot of numbers without a lot of good news. Let’s take a look at the reasons why men say they avoid doctors’ visits and maybe include some counter arguments for those that need convincing.
I Feel Great. Why should I visit the Doctor? Most men are conditioned to believe that if there is no blood or a broken bone involved, then everything is fine. Unless they are flat on their back and unable to work, then they deem themselves to be as healthy as a horse. Unfortunately, some of the most serious diseases don’t have symptoms. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes remain hidden until they result in a heart attack, stroke or worse. The time to find out if your body agrees with how great you feel is before a crisis hits.
Getting a Physical is Humiliating. Men dread going through the poking and prodding required during a physical exam. Part of it stems back to the awkward physicals from their childhood when they were told to “turn your head and cough” before being authorized to participate in Gym class each year or play a team sport. Today, most physicians will tell you that a prostate exam is not their favorite part of the day either, but they are willing to do it to ensure that you avoid suffering from a terrible, yet preventable form of cancer. Men can rest assured that physicians aren’t gathering at their favorite watering hole and comparing notes on the exams and physicals they performed that day. The bottom line is getting your blood work done and subjecting yourself to a few seconds of awkwardness each year to possibly save your life is not a bad trade off.
I Don’t Have Time! One of the more common forms of avoidance, when faced with the prospect of visiting a doctor, men insist that they just can’t find the time. Even though there are more than 8,700 total hours in a year, carving out two hours for an office visit is a tricky proposition. Oddly enough, on average men spend more than 19 hours per week watching television. Those hours are four times the number they spend on physical exercise each week. If you can’t finagle the two hours you will need for the visit during your workday, find a physician’s office that offers occasional evening hours and schedule an appointment. That extra episode of Game of Thrones that you were planning to binge watch will still be available tomorrow.
I Don’t Want to Hear About It. Nobody wants to hear that they shouldn’t smoke. They already know that. Nobody wants to hear that maybe they are drinking too much or aren’t at a healthy weight. Sure, hearing the truth can be tough, but your doctor isn’t there to judge you, only to help you. Men have a tendency to deny the reality of any vices they may have, but unfortunately, the consequences won’t be denied. A physician will level with you and offer approaches that may end up saving your life. Think of it as a coach who is helping you with your jump shot or how to hit a curveball. Just like your old ball coach used to say, “Listen, be coachable, and try to improve.”
I Can’t Afford it. Most Americans have health insurance now, in part because of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Under the law, in many cases, preventive care screenings for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and other evaluations are covered once per year at no charge. It is always wise to check with your physician’s office in advance about out of pocket costs before your visit. If you do find yourself in a situation where the co-pays or deductibles are going to pose a problem, you can always speak candidly with your doctor. Most, if not all, will try and work with you and in some cases, they can offer you extra samples of a needed medication.
I’ll Be Fine; It Will Go Away By Itself. From the time they were youngsters playing ball in the park, men have been told that “Big boys don’t cry” and “Just rub some dirt on it and it will be better.” This has pre-conditioned them to fight through aches and pains. The same can be said for times that they aren’t feeling quite right, but in their mind, they need to “play through it.” If it isn’t an obvious problem, most men will find an excuse to avoid getting checked out. While true that time can heal some wounds, not all wounds are created equally. It is important for men to realize that some conditions, like pneumonia, heart disease, or undetected cancer will not go away without sometimes fatal consequences.
On average, women outlive men by up to seven years, possibly due to the fact that women are more than four times more likely to have regular doctor visits than men. Studies show that men who are married or in a significant relationship are more likely to visit their physician more regularly because of prompting from their partner. Others believe that overall, attitudes are changing and today’s parents are not pushing “old school” notions that ignoring pain is a sign of manliness. Whatever it takes to change the culture of men avoiding doctors will be a welcome shift. Regular checkups, screening exams for cancers and heart disease, and increased awareness about the benefits of healthier lifestyle choices are all important factors in combatting chronic men’s health issues.
We want to hear from you about this important topic. What are some of the excuse you hear from your patients? Do you have any advice to help get men to see their physician? Why do you think men ignore their health and what should we do about it? Leave us a comment below or drop by our Facebook page and tell us what you think.