In general, women are healthier than men. Men have higher rates of death from most of the leading causes, deal with more chronic conditions and have a shorter life span by about six years. Why? One reason is that men are often more reluctant to visit the doctor than women. According to one study, 24% of men had not seen a doctor during the previous year, compared to only 8% for women.
Because men frequently wait until they have been experiencing symptoms for a long time before they make an appointment, diseases have often progressed by the time they see a doctor. This leads to higher death rates from some serious illnesses. For example, while 50% more women are diagnosed with melanoma than men, deaths from the disease are 50% higher in men.
Additionally, mens’ reluctance to visit a healthcare provider often means that they skip preventive health checkups and routine health screenings. As a result, many men do not get their blood pressure checked regularly or have screenings for cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and other serious conditions.
Why Do Men Wait?
Research suggests there are several reasons why many men are less than enthusiastic about going to the doctor. In surveys, men report not having health insurance, lack of time and being afraid of what the doctor might tell them as reasons they skip making appointments. Studies have also shown that gender roles play a big part, as many men feel that it is not masculine to go to the doctor and that women have more health issues to worry about.
Preventive Health Checkups
It is recommended that men ages 18 and older have yearly physical exams to get any necessary preventive screenings, determine risk for future health problems and talk with the doctor about any concerns.
At the exam, your doctor will check your height, weight, body mass index and blood pressure; administer any necessary vaccines based on your age; and talk with you about getting screened for certain conditions based on your age and other health factors, such as weight, lifestyle and family medical history. Screenings include:
- Cholesterol, starting at age 40 for men with no risk factors for heart disease and age 20 for men with risk factors
- Diabetes, starting at age 40 and repeated every three years or more often if additional risk factors are present
- Colorectal cancer, starting at age 45 or for younger men with a family history of colon cancer or polyps
- Prostate cancer, for some men ages 55 through 69
The doctor might also perform a testicular exam to check for signs of hernias or testicular cancer. He or she may also talk to you about your diet and activity levels, depression and alcohol and tobacco, as well as suggest any necessary lifestyle changes.