By Dr. Ayo Bankole
Sir, when did you last visit your doctor? The answer I get from the men I see in my practice is something like, “it’s been a long time, or I don’t remember.” The husbands, fathers, and adult sons in our lives tend to pay less attention to their health than the women. Statistically, they seek medical help less often than women and tend to skip preventive care and regular check-ups altogether. According to the Center for Disease Control, men are 80 percent less likely to see a doctor. When men finally do seek medical attention, it’s often when they become even more ill as they wait and hope the ailment remits on its’ own.
As compared to women, men’s lowered health care seeking behaviors are believed to be one of the reasons why men are more likely to be diagnosed with diseases late, to die of more serious diseases than women, and why women outlive men. The disparity is unfortunate since men suffer higher rates of many of the same health conditions that women proactively address. Men of course also experience quality of life impacting gender specific health concerns like prostate enlargement, prostate cancer, andropause, associated with low testosterone and erectile dysfunction.
Some of the top three reasons men give for shunning medical care when surveyed include, believing that they are in good health, an unwillingness to make time to seek medical care, and the fear of learning what might be wrong with them. From a doctor’s perspective, there are some recognized barriers to men seeking help. These barriers tend to be more social and cultural related and include men not wanting to appear vulnerable, in need of help, or in a position that they are not in control and stoicism. The fact that many men are accustomed to not seeing their fathers go to the doctor, also influences their health care seeking behaviors.
The reality of health is that how we feel is not necessarily indicative of being healthy. Preventive care and regular visits are just as important tool for men since conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer can be present for years without symptoms. Medical care gives men the opportunity to identify health concerns early on, before they are harder and costlier to treat. It gives men the chance to be proactive about health and to be in control of the quality and outcome of their lives whiling to help ensure they have the highest level of wellbeing.