Over 70% of men would rather do household chores than visit a doctor, and only half practice preventative care.
These percentages, from a 2019 Cleveland Clinic survey of 1,174 adult males, may partially explain why, on average, men live 5 years less than their female counterparts.
“Men tend to be stubborn about a lot of things, with taking care of their health usually near the top of the list,” Dr. Eric Klein, chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute, said in a media release.
June marks Men’s Health Month — and June 13-19 Men’s Health Week — and experts are encouraging men to keep up with annual checkups, act quickly when in need of care, and be honest with their provider about symptoms, lifestyle habits and concerns.
“In general, it’s been a trend for a long time that guys are less likely to be seen for routine health care (especially) among young ‘healthy’ adults,” Dr. Will Klein of Gundersen Health System family medicine says. “Because there are (fewer) prescribed medical screenings for guys in their 20s and 30s, they may think it’s not necessary. (But these visits) are a prime time for identifying issues and trying to correct them…you can have a lot of damage occur (without timely intervention).”
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Men’s Health Week has been recognized since 1994, with government sponsors looking to increase awareness, improve chances of early detection and treatment, and lower health care costs by preventing issues from materializing or progressing. With nearly two-thirds of men reporting they typically wait as long as possible to see a doctor for even long term symptoms or pain, many health problems are likely to advance, at times to the point of no return.
According to the CDC, men die at higher rates of the current four leading causes of U.S. deaths — heart disease, cancer, COVID-19 and unintentional injuries — than women.
Per the Cleveland Clinic survey, 20% of men are not entirely honest with their doctor, due to embarrassment, fear of judgement, hesitation to hear about changes they need to make to improve their health, or preferring to be in the dark about health problems. Some may believe seeking help for health issues makes them seem weak or as a complainer, or even affect their social circle and jobs.
“The way that men are socialized and perceptions of masculinity and being tough and not complaining — I think those things probably contribute to not seeking care for an issue that seems smaller,” Klein says. “And there is an (attitude), ‘If I feel fine, why would I want to talk to a healthcare professional. If I feel fine, I must be fine.’ But there are certain issues that don’t cause people to feel bad when people have them, but they still take their toll on your body over the course of your lifetime.”
In addition to the physical, men are also more likely to suffer certain mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, and substance abuse problems. They are also less likely to seek counseling or psychiatric help. Some six million American men suffer from depression, and 2020 data from the American Society of Suicide Prevention shows males were 3.88 times more likely to die from suicide than women.
Again, stigmas, or “social norms,” play a role in reluctance to ask for help, Mental Health America states. And a survey from the Today Show found 49% of men feel more depressed than they admit to others.
“Guys are sometimes socialized in a way that makes them less likely to talk about their depression or their anxiety,” Klein says. “I think there tends to be less awareness of and seeking help for men’s mental health issues.”
Whether it is for physical or mental health concerns, Klein encourages men to reach out to their provider. And even for those who don’t feel unwell, regular visits and screenings are essential.
“You very well might be fine, but (without) cancer screenings and cholesterol checks and checking your blood pressure, you don’t really know,” Klein notes. Having current vital stats, he adds, can provide a valuable baseline if measurements were to rise or fall.
In addition to recommended checkups and screenings, Klein suggests eating a more plant based diet, reducing intake of processed foods, getting in exercise — which has both physical and mental health benefits — and not to ignore your health.
“By focusing on things earlier, I think people can stay healthy and feel better for longer,” Klein says.
For more information on men’s health screenings, recommended immunizations and other care, visit https://www.gundersenhealth.org/services/mens-health/
“In general, it’s been a trend for a long time that guys are less likely to be seen for routine health care (especially) among young ‘healthy’ adults.”
Dr. Will Klein of Gundersen Health System family medicine