Dear Heathy Men: You’ve mentioned several times in this column that men don’t go to the doctor as often as women and that they live shorter, sicker lives than women. I’m sure that’s true. But what I really want to know is why? Why don’t men take better care of themselves?
A: There are a number of factors that keep men (and boys) from being as actively engaged in their own healthcare as they need to be. Here are some of the biggest ones:
- Socialization. When we’re little, boys are bombarded with the idea that “big boys don’t cry.” When we’re in high school, we’re told that we need to “take one for the team.” And when we hit adulthood, it’s “man up.” Overall, the message is clear: asking for and/or accepting help is a sign of weakness. Not surprisingly, men and boys ignore their symptoms and stay as far away from medical providers as they can.
- Media messages. In a comprehensive study of print advertising for health products and healthy lifestyles, Dr. Salvatore J. Giorgianni, Jr. found that ads were half as likely to be directed at males than at females. “This sends a clear message to boys and young men that (a) only women and girls have health-related needs, and (b), taking care of one’s physical or mental health is women’s responsibility,” says Giorgianni, co-founder and vice president of Healthy Men, Inc. (healthymen.org).
- Lack of information/knowledge. One of the main reason males eventually seek medical help is erectile dysfunction (ED), which is often an early symptom of a variety of other health risks. “Seventy one percent of men who have experienced issues related to sexual health, including erectile dysfunction, have also been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or diabetes,” according to a 2022 study by the Cleveland Clinic. Unfortunately, 58% of men believe that low testosterone is causing their ED, which leads many to shop for quick cures online or elsewhere. The study also found that, “[t]he majority of men don’t know their complete family history when it comes to urological issues (77%) and cancers (64%).”
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