Why Don’t Men Go to Doctors?

Article Categories: Other & Patient Care

You probably already know this: Men don’t make as many appointments as women. Unless there is some urgent or unexpected reason for men to come, such as when they’re sick, they tend to avoid things like check-ups or routine visits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that men are 80% less likely than women to use regular health care resources.

Some more interesting facts:

• 36% of men only go to the doctor when they are “extremely” sick
• Half of men 18-50 years old don’t have a primary care physician.
• 33% of these men haven’t had a check-up in more than a year
• Over 12% of men tend to treat their problems without a doctor

What keeps men away from the doctor?

1. “I have no reason to go.” Even though men are more likely to have cardiac conditions, diabetes, or kidney disease, they often think that “feeling well” means they are healthy. Many serious diseases have no initial symptoms until late stages, while early screening could prevent or treat them. Forty percent of men 10-50 years old have never had the cholesterol screening that could help them live longer.

2. “I have no time.” Work seems to be a key reason that men don’t see their doctors regularly. A survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) found that even when men were sick, 92% waited a day or two before calling for an appointment. "One of the biggest obstacles to improving the health of men is men themselves. They don't make their health a priority," said AAFP President Rick Kellerman, MD.

3. “I don’t like tests.” It’s not like women love tests, but women are educated to seek annual exams such as Pap smears and mammograms. Blood tests of all kinds, as well as other important life-saving screenings like colonoscopies and prostate exams, can help men start medications and treatments that will keep them healthy for years to come.

4. “I’m too embarrassed.” True, doctors are going to ask lots of personal questions. They want to know about smoking, alcohol, sex, and family history. They ask about diet and exercise. They poke and prod while the patient sits in an exam gown. They may perform a digital rectal exam to check the prostate. For men who were brought up to be strong, visiting the doctor can be a sign of weakness or showing vulnerability.

One interesting observation comes from Katherine Krefft, PdD, who has studied the issue of why men avoid doctors. She feels that as more women enter medicine, men may become more comfortable with a female physician. “For many men, a woman better fits their image of a caregiver. Their fathers probably didn’t go to the doctor, and it was their mothers who took care of them. Some men may prefer being touched by a woman to being touched by a man.”

You and your team members may want to spend some time discussing how to care for reluctant male patients so they feel comfortable returning for future appointments.

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