Barriers to Men’s Health-Seeking Behavior
The main reason men do not go to the doctor is that men are socialized to believe that they are invincible. As a result, many men are afraid to get “bad news” about their health, preferring the ignorance of denial instead. Other barriers include being apathetic, not in the habit of going, and not understanding insurance policies. Interestingly, and unfortunately, many men derive psychological benefits from feeling sick or being in pain and NOT seeking medical help. In fact, we have witnessed men bragging about how sick they were and then ending the story with the proud declaration, “But I didn’t go to the doctor!” We have collected far too many stories of men with serious symptoms toughing it out as a way to demonstrate, to themselves, that they are indeed strong and tough. This attitude needs to change. This places men at unnecessary risk of allowing sneaky, silent chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, periodontitis, and cancer, to get worse and worse, until it is “too late” for medicine to turn things around.
Another barrier men face is the unwillingness to discuss health issues with each other. There seems to be a stigma attached to men opening up to their family and friends for help, advice, and socioemotional support. Some men do not want to be seen as weak. Other men fear being teased for discussing personal issues.
A third barrier we have discovered is the lack of health education among men. For example, many men do not know what a PSA test is, and how to decide whether they should have one. Being in the know about such things is especially important for men with chronic diseases, such as diabetes. Some men do not mind talking about their health but still do not know enough about what to do to effectively manage those diseases. Having a accurate, up-to-date knowledge about the health conditions that affect men is crucial for empowering men to take better care of their health.