Why Men Avoid the Doctor like the Plague

While the average life expectancy has continued to increase over the years, thanks in part to advances in medical technology and data on healthy living standards, a disparity among men and women still exists. The typical man can expect to live a life five years shorter than a woman born in the same year, previously based on broad assumptions about a man’s appetite for risk throughout a lifetime. Recently, though, research has shown another significant difference between men and women as it relates to a critical factor in health and wellness: the doctor’s visit.
men-and-docsSteering Clear of Medical Advice

Men have a tendency to follow societal norms as it relates to their specific actions and attitudes, focused mainly onthe traits that allow them to be perceived as strong, brave, and self-reliant. Masculinity has long been built on a foundation of these attributes as they represent a direct line toward gaining respect and maintaining a certain social status. However, following the underlying themes of being a macho man often means forgoing situations that are perceived to have weak undertones. For many men, going to the doctor – whether for an annual checkup or treatment for an injury or illness – means they aren’t manning up.

Research shows that individuals who strongly believe in traditional male attributes have a tendency to avoid visiting a doctor’s office or otherwise seek out medical care in a timely manner. They may prolong setting an appointment because they feel as though they can and should be able to handle it without outside intervention. Conversely, those who feel less connected to masculine narratives are less inclined to avoid getting the medical attention they need. Some researchers believe these tendencies have a direct impact on the length and quality of one’s life.

When male patients do eventually make it to a doctor’s office, they have been found to divulge fewer important details about their health status for fear of looking weak. Some studies reveal that the gender of the medical professional treating a male patient with strong ties to conventional masculinity also plays a role in how medical care is provided. For instance, a male patient seeing a female doctor has a higher likelihood of openly discussing his specific health issues, but at the same time that patient is likely to believe the provider is less qualified than a male doctor. Not surprisingly, male patients visiting male doctors feel they are qualified to help but patients share fewer details so as to protect their impression of strength and masculinity.

Why Masculinity is an Issue in Healthcare

Men who hold conventional gender roles close and ultimately leave doctor’s visits for the “weak” may experience an overall decline in health. It is not simply an issue of sharing less information or delaying treatment or advice; healthcare tendencies and preferences among macho men put them at a higher risk of experiencing a complication with eventual treatment as well as a high probability of detrimental miscommunication.

Refusing to share critical details of one’s health circumstances or being less than honest about the true reason for seeking medical advice leads to a breakdown in thedialogue between medical providers and their patients. Miscommunication can be fatal in the healthcare world, as explained by a representative from a UK-based medical solicitors firm. When patients feel uncomfortable with their medical provider, miscommunication is inevitable. The occurrence of medical mistakes in these situations is far more likely than when the patient-provider or patient-staff relationship is strong and built on a foundation of trust and openness. If mistakes are left unattended for an extended period of time, such as a prescription error or misdiagnosis, patients suffer the consequences.

No simple solution exists for breaking down the traditional masculine narrative, but men can take charge of their life and longevity by avoiding the macho man routine when it comes to medical care. Medical professionals can lend a necessary hand in reducing the disparity between men and women seeking out treatment or advice by understanding how the majority of men think as it relates to their own perceived strength. The combination of these actions can help men feel less reluctant to visit a doctor’s office, ultimately shortening the gender longevity gap.