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Why Do Men Avoid Doctors?

Why Do Men Avoid Doctors?

We all know someone – a husband, father, friend --who is “too tough” to go to the doctor, trucking along despite some obvious issues. It’s not about feeding into stereotypes: research shows that men tend to delay seeking healthcare, ignore symptoms of illness, and hold back information when they do finally see a doctor.

In an annual Cleveland Clinic survey, most men (82%) said they try to stay healthy to live longer for family and friends who rely on them, yet only half report that they’re getting that all-important preventative care. (an annual check-up, including labs, is recommended as a starting point.)

Here are some more startling statistics from the survey:

  • 65% said they avoid going to the doctor as long as possible
  • 72% would rather do household chores, like cleaning the bathroom or mowing the lawn, than go to the doctor
  • 20% admit they have not been completely honest with their doctor before. (The top reasons are embarrassment, avoiding the lifestyle or diet change they suspect will be recommended, and fear of a bad diagnosis or outcome)

Experts attribute this trend to various reasons, but two big ones are stigmas and the superhero syndrome. Most men buy into the stigma that they should be strong enough to handle things on their own, no matter what. They may convince themselves that seeing a doctor is a sign of weakness and that their condition will improve on its own.

Men also tend to engage in more risky behavior – heavy drinking, smoking, etc. – and during the pandemic, research showed that this translated to men’s likelihood to get vaccinated, social distance, wear a mask, and take symptoms as seriously.

Though men reported in the survey that they try to stay healthy to live longer for family, women are more likely to seek out preventative health care, not only for themselves but for their family (they’re also more likely to be open and share what’s going on when they do visit a doctor). Because women are often the ones who manage medical appointments for the household, men may be less familiar with navigating health care systems.

Outside of more urgent medical issues like sprains and lacerations that need to be handled asap, the risk of avoiding preventative care creates a potentially dangerous situation. Heart disease, as well as liver disease, are more prevalent in older men. Men have more alcoholism, suicide and violence-related death than women. And, many 20-40 year olds assume they are healthy, not considering they could have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, which are both risk factors for heart disease and stroke if they’re not under control.

Indicators like high blood pressure or high cholesterol can be early warning signs of more serious conditions, so men should see a primary care physician annually, to run labs, check blood pressure and stay on top of any red flags. Early diagnosis for things like prostate cancer is so important, and it can be detected with a simple physical exam and blood test performed as part of an annual check-up.

One potential bright spot is that 61% of men surveyed said they would be more likely to go to their annual check-up if seeing the doctor was more convenient for them. The pandemic has fast-tracked the trajectory of telehealth, and most health care providers offer online scheduling, too. Millennials have high expectations for convenience, quality and cost, and as the largest segment of the U.S. population, their behavior is already driving changes in health care. This may have an impact on the long-standing trends in men’s health.

Need a doctor? Check out our Baton Rouge General Physicians