Study says men avoid doctors until a crisis

New research affirms what women already know–men don’t like going to the doctor. They put off routine check-ups and ignore symptoms of pain or illness. These conclusions are based on a survey of American men carried out by a private foundation that investigates health and social issues.

The Commonwealth Fund found significant differences between men and women in their attitude towards health care. Three times as many men as women had not seen a doctor in the previous year. One in three men had no regular doctor-compared to one in five women. And even when they did visit a doctor, one of every five men said they were "not at all comfortable" discussing health.

The survey concludes that men often go without timely preventive care. Almost two thirds of the men over 50 had not been screened for colon cancer. And 41 per cent had not taken a prostate cancer test in the year prior to the survey. Over one third of those surveyed had not been tested for either disease in the past five years. Yet these life threatening diseases require early detection for successful treatment.

A Canadian social scientist says the findings of the American survey are no surprise to him. . Ross Gray, at the Toronto-Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre says that for every 10 women seeking help for breast cancer, you’ll get just one man seeking help for prostate cancer. The two are comparable in their mortality rate.

"The reasons are all a bit speculative, but it probably has a lot to do with men’s socialization and how they see their masculinity. Being masculine is all about self-reliance-and men don’t see seeking medical attention as being self-reliant."

"We’ve just finished a study of men with prostate cancer and their wives. We found it was important for them to minimize their condition. That attitude could help them in coping with their disease. However, minimizing is not a good strategy at the beginning, when it’s important to deal with symptoms and get medical attention."

Dr. Gray says once the men were diagnosed and waiting for surgery, being able to minimize their condition was a good strategy for coping with the waiting time.

The Commonwealth Fund study stated that men had a shorter life expectancy than women and suffer higher mortality rates from the leading causes of death. The conclusion was that if men’s connections to the health care system could be strengthened, men would live longer.