Much like superior map reading skills and a tendency to miss the laundry basket, the belief that men don’t care about their health is one that doesn’t stack up to the science.
It’s a common misconception that men don’t visit the doctor but in truth, they deserve a bit more credit. Recent research has found most Australian men over the age of 35 visit three to four times a year, more often if monitoring pre-existing conditions.
The study published in the American Journal of Men’s Health showed that visits to the doctor increased significantly to more than 10 visits a year when men experienced both a chronic condition as well as depression or anxiety.
The combination of self-reported information with Medicare data showed only 8% of participants had not visited a doctor in the previous 12 months. Our own research has found that 71% of men had visited a GP within the last three months and were unlikely to ignore serious health concerns.
The belief is further busted by one of the most comprehensive global surveys on men’s perceptions of their health, which found that 9 out of 10 men want to take a more proactive role in managing their wellbeing.
So why are men stalling when it comes to health?
Despite these stats, men still have a higher rate of poor health in a range of troubling areas. Aussie men make up the majority of premature deaths, have a lower life expectancy, a higher rate of suicide, and double the rate of heart disease, to name a couple.
There are a complex range of social and behavioural factors and barriers that influence your likeliness to seek professional help for health concerns, a major one being risk. Men take and tolerate more risks than women, so they go to the doctor later in the course of an illness. Taking the risk out of your health by having regular check ups can help.
Would you skip a car service?
Knowing when to have your car checked is no different to keeping your body in peak condition. Visiting your GP is like a maintenance check on your own machinery — better to catch a timing belt rattle, a wheel bearing rumble or a sudden drop-off in your vehicle’s performance before it leads to worse problems, takes longer to solve or becomes too worn out to fully fix.
Many men see a GP only as needed, rather than planning a visit on a regular basis. A study of over 13,000 Aussie men found that only 39% reported having an annual health check at their GP, which could be a missed opportunity for discovering overlooked symptoms and discussing other concerns.
Seeing a doctor and taking a proactive attitude towards your health (and not just what you think is serious) should be run of the mill. If you believe it’s normal for blokes to put off seeing a doctor, you’re less likely to pick up the phone and book an appointment.
The truth is that men do visit doctors, they just need to do it sooner and more often.
Book a tune up
There are a few things you can do to get the most out of your GP appointment and ensure you’re getting a consistent service.
- Find a doctor you trust, you don’t have to stick with your childhood GP for life.
- Book a non-negotiable, yearly check-up, whether or not you have issues to discuss.
- Ask for a longer appointment so you can go through each concern on your list.
To learn more about the different health checks you need at each stage of life, visit malehealth.org.au. To help promote men’s health in your workplace, community group or clinic, order our free Spanner in the Works toolkit.