Why do men avoid going to the doctor?
The internet is full of anecdotes about men who don’t – or at one crucial time, does not have – go see the doctor. Some are somewhat fun, like a dad who is used to asks his daughter if he can borrow antibiotics from her. But most are terribly sad, like a friend mourning his mid-1950s tennis partner, who had long complained of a mysterious back pain, only to find out he had stage 4 colon cancer. His friend wrote on Twitter: “[It] had spread in his ribs, his head, everywhere. He died very quickly.
These stories, unfortunately, are all too common. According to a recent investigation According to the Cleveland Clinic, “doctor dodging” is a worrying status quo for men between the ages of 35 and 54. Only 43% of this middle-aged cohort reported seeing their doctor for annual check-ups. This percentage increases as men get older – when serious illnesses require them to seek professional help – but even then it is a last resort and many patients are not in their best behavior. In the study, 65% of those surveyed said they avoided going to the doctor for as long as possible. When they go, more than a quarter of them usually withhold information from their doctor. Some have even admitted to lying to their doctors for years for fear of hearing a dreaded diagnosis.
While seemingly silly, one final statistic might offer the clearest glimpse into the psyches of men desperate to avoid scheduling a doctor’s appointment. Said 72% of men “would rather do household chores” (such as cleaning the bathroom) than see a doctor. Sitcom dad jokes aside, this premise is a useful framing device: an overwhelming majority of men in this country have come to perceive doctor visits as a chore to be avoided at all costs. This calls for obvious consequences: why do men, and especially middle-aged men, hate doctors? What are the logistical, biological and psychological factors at play? And what consequences do men face when they refuse to pick up the phone and make an appointment?
Based on 2019 data, men work slightly more than women – about five more hours per week. But this gradual difference aside, men’s claims that they are “too busy” to take care of themselves are met with disbelief by medical professionals. Dubai-based GP Dr Amy Revene MBBS says the vague reasons men list for skipping annual physical exams mask deeper psychological issues. âWhen the researchers delved into this alarming trend a little further,â she told InsideHook, âthey noticed a few common trends. Namely: Men are uncomfortable with exams, fearful of exams. diagnosed and find it difficult to shake off their “macho” attitudes.
This sentiment is shared by other experts in the field. Dr David Samadi – one of America’s leading prostate surgeons and author of The ultimate manual – says it’s all in the minds of men. âIt’s purely psychological. Men just put their health last on their to-do list. They feel reluctant about routine but important medical exams, such as prostate or rectal exams; they just don’t think about the health risks of skipping appointments; they think if they can keep working and be productive, then they’re good at it.
Men stay away from offices, clinics and hospitals, doctors say, thanks to a potent cocktail of toxic masculinity and unrecognized vulnerability. On the one hand, men only interpolate imperatives that they have heard all their lives, from fathers, older brothers, coaches, bosses: âDon’t cry. “Rub some dirt on it.” “Shake.” “It will be fine.” “Standing man.” They play the role of a psychological phenomenon known as “superhero syndrome” – if i’m fine, everyone’s fine. So i better be fucking alright.
When it comes to this point, as family physician Dr Waqas Ahmad jokes, men often go too far: âWomen go to the doctor when they are supposed to. Men go to the doctor when their arm is almost completely detached from their body and they can no longer put on enough bandages (or electrical tape) to keep it attached; then they say with a big sigh, ‘Alright, I’ll go to the doctor if you stop pestering me about this.’ But not without stopping for a beer on the way.
It’s autonomy and stoicism taken to a dangerous extreme, and ultimately, it’s a performance. Because men are actually terrified. At a certain age, they all know they are not invincible. Compare that to the stubbornness of an outside resident who refuses to ask for directions, or a rocky-kneed grandparent who always has to shovel his own sidewalk. Underlying this approach is a colossal fear of inadequacy, of replaceability. Watching normal consultation rates, not to mention the process itself (you know, not lying to doctors), would mean recognizing a weakness and probably receiving some sort of diagnosis. And in the minds of many aging patriarchs, a diagnosis is unacceptable.
Having said that, it may be a mistake to call it a middle-aged problem. The routine itself is assimilated at a much younger age. “Too many young men have a sense of immortality,” says Health posterity founder Dr Barrett E. Cowan, who has spent 20 years treating male fertility. âThey feel they don’t need medical attention. This fosters a self-defeating loop in which a man’s self-assurance can negatively affect not only his own life, but the lives of those he loves. âIn my practice, for example, most men are not even aware that when a couple has difficulty conceiving, 50% of the time it is due to the presence of a male factor; but by proactively treating the man, we can increase a couple’s chances of having a child.
Now, there are certain biological realities and societal norms that influence a man’s reluctance to go to the doctor. Unlike women, men can go for years in their early life (teens to 20s) without going for annual check-ups. That’s not to say they don’t have to – just that they have the dubious privilege of throwing their bodies on autopilot and then getting behind the wheel on the verge of fatherhood. Women experience a very different situation, as Dr David Beatty, a general practitioner for 30 years, explains: âYoung women see the doctor for contraceptives. This accustoms them to using the service. They know how the appointment system works, they get to know the receptionists, nurses, doctors.
Many women come back for regular check-ups during pregnancy. They re-analyze their contraceptive options after the baby is born. They visit the doctor for vaccinations and checks on the baby. They are more likely to bring children for annual checkups or checkups for various injuries and ailments. It creates an intimacy with the literal space itself, and more importantly, the process – to trust the healthcare system, you have to experience it. This is a point that physicians bring up time and time again: women are proactive patients. Long before they turn 40, women have a habit of disclosing information about their bodies, weighing their options, and making decisions. The addiction is there, and they are literally living longer for it.
That is true. In the United States, the gap in life expectancy between men and women is a wonder five years. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, the average American man will live to age 76, while the average American woman will live to age 81. There are ridiculous reasons for this discrepancy – for example, men are more likely to perish in motorcycle crashes or shootings. They also find it very difficult to give up red meat. But a paramount theme is the willingness of women to find out exactly what is going on in their bodies and to chart a course of action to mitigate the risks.
These risks are real, but they are not insurmountable. Urologist Dr. Lamia Gabal said: “Things like prostate cancer, colon cancer, hypertension and diabetes can be detected for some time in the early stages and are always treatable or curable.” It is important for all men to have the following three doctors: a primary care physician, an internist and a urologist. Frankly, the latter should be a snap for all men – who the hell wants to wake up three times a night to go to the bathroom? Or fight erectile dysfunction for years? – but they are all necessary. Dr Samadi asks, “When men neglect their annual check-ups, who monitors their blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin levels?” Important health parameters like these are often “silent” without any symptoms and will only get worse if not diagnosed and then properly managed. ”
It is understandable, in a way: the young people feel untouchable, the older ones are frozen in their ways. Neither wants to hear that they shouldn’t drink, smoke or eat cheeseburgers every Saturday. But the dialogue still has to take place.
So how do you convince the man in your life (whether father, husband, brother or even son) to start seeing the doctor? The worker metaphor never hurts. âYou are the general contractor and you are building a house,â says Dr. Jerry Bailey, a physician in functional medicine. âBut you need the drywall specialists, plumbers, electricians, HVAC, tilers, framing, roofing. You manage everything, but you need the whole team to build the house of your dreams.
He’s right – it takes a village (a village that certainly has a doctor’s office) for a man to be 80 years old. Ultimately, this conversation shouldn’t be a warning. It should be an encouragement. A call to arms. The purest, most sincere form of a man’s reluctance to seek medical attention is an honest desire not to upset or worry those around him. We have long regarded this feeling of intimacy and restraint as noble, even heroic. But it’s time to change the narrative. True heroism is to live longer. It’s about easing the emotional (and financial) burden on your family. He faces vulnerabilities – and the inevitable realities of life – head on. And when everything counts, that means more time spent fooling around with your kid or playing tennis with an old friend.
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