Most of us have several guys in our lives that we care about – significant others, husbands, sons, dads, brothers, and more. June is Men’s Health month as well as the month for Father’s Day, so it is always a great opportunity to think about men’s health. Are you aware of how YOU can be an important change-agent in your guys’ health, no matter who they are?
Research supports that women are more likely to visit a healthcare provider than men. 1 Studies have shown that women seek more health care in response to both physical and mental health concerns 2-6 and that even when factoring in the increased health care needs unique to women (e.g., pregnancy and related care), women visit family physicians more often and report longer consultation times than men. 7 As women, we understand the importance of good health and can use that understanding to help our guys be healthier, whether it is through the practice of healthy habits, or getting to a healthcare provider for proper screenings.
Before we get into the “how we can help” discussion, what are the reasons why men don’t go to the doctor as often in the first place? We found a great blog post that shares some of the research about just that.8 From “not having enough time” to beliefs about being strong and reliant, to fear of diagnosis, to being uncomfortable with exams, there are a host of studies by prominent researchers that delve into the ‘why’s’ of why men do not go to the doctor. And it appears that there are indeed multiple reasons. But you know what the silver lining is? We are in a great position to encourage our guys to take care of themselves and get to the doctor. 8 It turns out almost 20% of men admit to going to the doctor just so a loved one will stop asking them about it. Encouraging your loved ones about going to the doctor for annual check-ups – and yes, that may be called “nagging” to some, might save a life through early diagnosis or at least be reassured about a check-up with nothing noteworthy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers great strategies for helping the men in our lives get and stay healthy.9
Supporting Healthy Habits:
You can support the men in your life by having healthy habits yourself and by making healthy choices.
- Eat healthy and include a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables have many vitamins and minerals that may help protect you from chronic diseases. Limit foods and drinks high in calories, sugar, salt, fat, and alcohol.
- Regular physical activity has many benefits. It can help control your weight, reduce your risk of heart disease and some cancers, and can improve your mental health and mood. Find fun ways to be active together. Adults need 2½ hours of physical activity each week.
- Set an example by choosing not to smoke and encourage the men in your life to quit smoking. Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits. You lower your risk for different types of cancer, and don’t expose others to secondhand smoke—which causes health problems. Call your state’s tobacco quitline (for English speakers, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW [1-800-784-8669]; for Spanish speakers, call 1-855-DÉJELO-YA [1-855-335-3569]).
- Help the men in your life recognize and reduce stress. Physical or emotional tension are often signs of stress. They can be reactions to a situation that causes you to feel threatened or anxious. Learn ways to manage stress including finding support, eating healthy, exercising regularly, and avoiding drugs and alcohol.
Encouraging Men to See a Healthcare Professional and Get Regular Check-Ups
Encourage men to see a doctor or health professional for regular checkups and to learn about their family health history.
- Men can prepare for doctor’s visits. Certain diseases and conditions may not have symptoms, so checkups help identify issues early or before they can become a problem.
- It’s important for men (and women) to understand their family health history, which is a written or graphic record of the diseases and health conditions present in your family. It is helpful to talk with family members about health history, write this information down, and update it from time to time.
1 Thompson, A.E., Anisimowicz, Y., Miedema, B. et al. The influence of gender and other patient characteristics on health care-seeking behaviour: a QUALICOPC study. BMC Fam Pract 17, 38 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12875-016-0440-0
2 Mackenzie CS, Gekoski WL, Knox VJ. Age, gender, and the underutilization of mental health services: the influence of help-seeking attitudes. Aging Ment Health. 2006;10(6):574–82.
3 Matheson FI et al. Physical health and gender as risk factors for usage of services for mental illness. J
4 Verhaak PF et al. Chronic disease and mental disorder. Soc Sci Med. 2005;60(4):789–97.
5 Carriere G. Consultations with doctors and nurses. Health Rep. 2005;16(4):45–8.
6 Nabalamba A, Millar WJ. Going to the doctor. Health Rep. 2007;18(1):23–35.
7 Nabalamba A, Millar WJ. Going to the doctor. Health Rep. 2007;18(1):23–35.
8 TriCity Medical Center. Why Don’t Men Go to the Doctor as Often as Women? https://www.tricitymed.org/2017/06/dont-men-go-doctor-often-women/
9 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Men’s Health Week. https://www.cdc.gov/features/healthymen/index.html