“Men are 25 percent less likely than women to visit the doctor even though they are more prone to die from serious illnesses including cancer, heart and lung diseases,” states The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
I have been asked by many wives, “How do I get my husband to the doctor?” It seems that most men don’t want to go, and don’t feel they need to be seen by a physician. If we look at some of the possible reasons given, we can come up with strategies for getting them to the doctor.
It used to be that we thought women were over utilizers of health care and that men were right about being seen far less often. This certainly has not been true.
Top Reasons Men Give for Not Going to the Doctor
- “I am fine.” This may or may not be true. The reason for being seen is to verify this thought and to make sure each person is planning for their future health care with respect to their own personal risk factors, such as family history.
- “It’s a woman thing.” It is true that women get into a pattern of seeing their physician earlier during the childbearing years, but it is not a time for men to skip out.
- “It’s inconvenient.” Men want to go when it is convenient. However, most primary care offices now offer extended hours. Many of the offices at Shawnee Mission Primary Care have hours from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- The EXAM. Nobody likes the prostate check or the testicular exam. However, testicular cancer is the most common male cancer between the ages 15 to 34, and there are approximately 8,000 cases per year. Further, there are about 30,000 cases of prostate cancer diagnosed each year. Usually the physician will perform the prostate check sometime after the age of 40.
- “If you nag me, I won’t go.” This is actually a real reason. Everyone wants to be in control.
- “I might be found out on some of my bad habits.” This is true. Doctors are to make recommendations on healthy lifestyle. Don’t smoke, don’t drink too much, eat less, eat your fruits and vegetables, wear your seatbelt and exercise daily. That wasn’t too painful.
- “I don’t know any good doctors.” I have heard this. Ask friends about their doctor. Ask about age, gender, style and the office atmosphere to find one that fits with your personality.
- “What if they find something wrong?” Many live through denial and don’t want to find out what might be wrong.
- Machismo. Research at Rutgers University found that middle-aged men who are most devoted to traditional beliefs about masculinity are half as likely as other men to get routine medical care. Men who were the highest believers in masculine standards were 50 percent less likely to get the recommended care than other men.
Other Reasons and Their Statistics
- I only go to the doctor if I am extremely sick: 36%
- I am healthy, I have no reason to go to a doctor: 23%
- I prefer to treat myself naturally: 12%
- I don't have time to go to the doctor: 12%
- I don't have health insurance: 11%
- I don't like doctors: 8%
- I am afraid of finding out something is wrong with me: 7%
- I don't know of a good doctor in my area: 4%
Harris Interactive Poll of 1,100 men
The first step to getting someone to the doctor is not making the appointment for them, but begins with a dialogue about seeing a physician. Investigate his past family history, his own personal concerns and his own risk factors regarding healthy lifestyle. There are other instigators, such as being around for your children and grandchildren. Don’t push. Instead, help him understand why seeing a doctor can impact his personal health and well-being and let the choice be his.
Shawnee Mission Primary Care’s Men’s Health Program can help men determine where they are with their health and partners them with doctors with a special interest in men’s health. Prior to your appointment, you’ll get a draw at one of our lab locations so that all of your results are ready when you visit your doctor. Then, on the day of your appointment, our experts will perform various additional screenings so the time you spend with the doctor will be used effectively. Click here to learn more, or call our Men’s Health Line at 913-632-3232.
Gregory Sweat, MD, is the Medical Director of the Shawnee Mission Physicians Group and practices Family Medicine at Shawnee Mission Primary Care - Prairie View Medical Building.