On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

Why Don't Men See Doctors?

The longstanding stereotype that men don’t go to the doctor is proving to be true even today. Men are supposed to be tough and full of machismo, but that line of thinking is putting millions of men at risk.

Even in today’s world of easy information about health and fitness, men still fall behind women in taking care of their health by scheduling annual exams or going to a doctor unless a condition becomes unbearable. On average, men die half a decade earlier than women.

Now, with the emerging recognition that treating preventable causes of death could close the medical gender gap, it’s more important than ever to push men to get the care they need.

According to one recent study by the Cleveland Clinic, close to 60 percent of men don’t regularly see a doctor, going only when they are seriously ill. The survey found that only three in five men get annual physicals and nearly half of the 500 men surveyed said their health is simply something they don’t talk about. Instead, men are much more likely to talk about current events (36 percent), sports (32 percent) or their job (32 percent) rather than their health (only 7 percent).

This disturbing trend is backed up by the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC reports that women are 33 percent more likely to visit the doctor than men, and women are 100 percent better at maintaining screening and preventive care. As it says in the report, “Utilization rates categorized by major reason for visit disclose that while the visit rates by women were at least somewhat higher for all types of care, the rate of visits by women for non-illness (for example, annual examinations) was 100 percent higher than among men, after controlling for age and removing pregnancy-related visits.”

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal called “Why Men Won’t Go to the Doctor, and How to Change That,” confirmed that compared to women, more men continue to avoid going to the doctor, skip recommended screenings and practice riskier behavior. Unfortunately, they also die about five years sooner, live with more years of bad health and have higher suicide rates, it said in the article.

Do men simply care less about their health and prevention than women, and if so, why?

Breaking down the excuses

The psychology of why men hesitate to visit doctors for even routine annual exams is an age-old question. Are they too busy? Not “sick enough?” Do they think a doctor’s visit is going to be uncomfortable? Are they afraid of what might be discovered? An online survey commissioned by Orlando Health found that it’s a mixture of all these things.

According to the survey, the top excuse men make to avoid scheduling annual appointments is that they are too busy. The second-most common excuse? They are “afraid of finding out something might be seriously wrong.” Finally, the discomfort of exams (such as prostate checks, testicular exams, colon cancer screenings and the like) is another top reason men don’t go to doctors.

What will get them to the doctor? In the Cleveland Clinic survey, 19 percent admitted they go to the doctor so their significant other or loved one will stop nagging them.

What is the health care industry doing?

Many health organizations have tried to combat the male reluctance to seek care by introducing social media campaigns, outreach programs and special events to lure men in for regular health care examinations. INTEGRIS is among those that lead the pack.

INTEGRIS started a program called Men’s Health University 15 years ago as a way to reach out to men and their families on the importance of taking charge of their own health. The program includes health screenings at local sports events, free wellness fairs, seminars and events aimed at minority groups.

The outreach efforts caught the eye of The Wall Street Journal, which espoused the hospital’s efforts. “INTEGRIS has sponsored car shows and cooking demonstrations, such as grilling contests emphasizing healthier cooking, that women can relate to as well,” said the article.

Steve Petty, who is the administrative director of community health at INTEGRIS, told the paper the outreach is sorely needed. He said that 67 percent of men who had blood tests in 2018 were found to have abnormal blood pressure while 40 percent had abnormal blood sugar levels.

“By bringing men back into the health care system, we can help them overcome one of their biggest health risks — that of just being a man,” said Petty.  

"Man up" and get screened

Annual screenings and tests are some of the most important things a man can do for his overall health because screenings find diseases early when they are easier to treat.

Prostate exam

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer for American men, second only to skin cancer. Annual screenings can catch the disease early when treatments are more effective. The American Cancer Society suggests men should begin discussions and tests at age 50 for the average-risk male, age 45 for high-risk men, and age 40 for African Americans and men with a family history of prostate cancer.

Blood pressure screening

Men should have their systolic and diastolic pressure checked regularly to check for pre-hypertension or high blood pressure, which is a leading cause of stroke and heart issues.

Testicular cancer exam

The American Cancer Society recommends all men have a testicular exam when they see a doctor for a routine physical. Additional screenings may be needed if a man has a family history of testicular cancer or an undescended testicle.

Colorectal exam

Average adults (including women) should have colorectal screenings beginning at age 50, but men have a slightly higher risk of developing colon or rectal cancer than women.

Skin cancer screening

Men are three times more likely to get non-melanoma basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers than women, and older men are more likely than women of the same age to develop the deadly melanoma skin cancer.

Cholesterol level test

High cholesterol could lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A fasting blood lipid panel is a common blood test that checks the levels of total cholesterol, LDL "bad" cholesterol, HDL "good" cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fat). Men need regular cholesterol testing at age 35, though those with a higher risk factor should begin testing at age 20.

Diabetes test

Starting at age 45, healthy men should begin diabetes screenings every three years using a fasting blood sugar test, glucose tolerance test or an AIC. Testing may begin earlier if you have a higher risk, including high cholesterol or blood pressure.

Glaucoma test

Eye tests for glaucoma are based on age and personal risk, but men under the age of 40 should be tested every 2-4 years. Men ages 40 to 64 should be tested every 1-3 years, while men over the age of 65 should be tested every 6-12 months.

By offering a multitude of men’s health resources at INTEGRIS, we challenge all men to take control of their health and make their appointment for an annual check-up.  Visit the Men’s Health University page to get started.