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Doctor doctor, where are all the men?

New data show that half of men put off visiting the doctor. Why is this and what can be done to prevent it?
Without the risk of sounding too morbid I want to start off by bringing your attention to the current life expectancies of males and females in the UK as per the WHO’s latest figures:

Men: 79
Women: 83

That’s a whopping four year rift between two of the same species who are essentially made up of the same cells and raised up in similar ways. Even though males generally have a higher socio-economic status than their female counterparts, this life-expectancy divide is widespread across the world. Of course, there may be underlying genetic factors behind such a gap however one rather convincing theory is that men simply don’t visit their healthcare professional enough. Men have become too concerned about losing their perception of masculinity that it actually becomes a risk factor for poor health.

A recent survey by Nuffield Health showed that half of men put off visiting the doctor, preferring instead to wait and see if their health issue goes away. According to the survey 1 in 5 men are embarrassed to discuss health issues and almost a third never wants to talk about such matters, especially if it’s in the lower half of the body. This understandable anxiety is preventing men from seeing a GP and potentially receiving a life-saving screening service.

As an emerging man (early twenties), I know that we wait until things get to breaking point to fix (or even replace) them. And I’m not just referring to health. We wait until that last resort-work shirt has been worn before we do the wash. We wear those favourite socks to the bitter, holey end before finally succumbing to your partner/mum/peer telling you to go and buy a new pair. Or those trusty running shoes that you did the park run in 2 years ago which now have a hole in the heel and the tread is so uneven you can’t walk in a straight line without the risk of a moderate ankle injury. And if it’s not one of these examples then it’s something else, we all do it.

The above examples of the stubbornness/laziness of men are on a small scale compared with what’s happening in men’s health. But in essence it’s the same psychology. It will often take a partner to notice a dark patch on your skin before nagging you all the way to the doctors.  As men we need to swallow our pride and masculinity when it comes to our own health. CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) are a UK charity who seek to prevent male suicide by offering someone to talk to when they’re in need of help. They believe there is “a cultural barrier preventing men from seeking help as they are expected to be in control at all times, and failure to be seen as such equates to weakness and a loss of masculinity”.

We all know behavioural change is the perhaps the most difficult of them all, however as men we need to realise that our health service is there to be utilised, there are people just like me and you who can be spoken to. The only thing we should be embarrassed about is that women are winning the life expectancy game, so sort it out! 

-Written by Stuart. E

30th December 2015

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