Health Screening Doctor - Dr Khoo

Dr Khoo Su King, Primary Care Doctor

1 June, 2024

Men's Health: Why Men Avoid Doctor Visits?

Why Men Avoid Doctor Visits?

Why Men Avoid Doctor Visits? The stereotype that men don’t go to the doctor is proving to hold true even today.

Despite the easy access to health and fitness information in today’s world, men still lag women in taking care of their health by scheduling annual exams or visiting a doctor unless a condition becomes unbearable. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global average difference in life expectancy between men and women is approximately 3 to 7 years, with women living longer than men.

With the emerging recognition that treating preventable causes of death could close the medical gender gap, it’s more important than ever to push men to get the care they need.

One recent study by the Cleveland Clinic found that close to 60 percent of men don’t regularly see a doctor, opting to go only when they are seriously ill. The survey revealed that only three in five men get annual physical check-ups, and nearly half of the 500 men surveyed said they simply don’t talk about their health. Instead, men are much more likely to discuss current events, sports, or their jobs rather than their health.

Why Men Avoid Doctor Visits?

This concerning trend is supported by the Centers for Disease Control in the US, which reports that women are 33 percent more likely to visit the doctor than men, and they are 100 percent better at maintaining screening and preventive care.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Men Won’t Go to the Doctor, and How to Change That,” confirmed that compared to women, more men continue to avoid doctor visits, skip recommended screenings, and engage in riskier behaviors. Unfortunately, this avoidance contributes to men dying about five years sooner, living with more years of bad health, and experiencing higher suicide rates.

Do men simply care less about their health and prevention than women, and if so, why?

The psychology behind why men hesitate to visit doctors for even routine annual exams is an age-old question. Are they too busy? Do they not feel “sick enough”? Do they anticipate discomfort during a doctor’s visit? Are they afraid of potential diagnoses? An online survey commissioned by Orlando Health found that it’s a combination of all these factors.

According to the survey, the top excuse men make to avoid scheduling annual appointments is that they are too busy. The second-most common excuse is that they are “afraid of finding out something might be seriously wrong.” Additionally, the discomfort associated with exams such as prostate checks, testicular exams, and colon cancer screenings is another significant reason men avoid doctor visits.

What will motivate them to visit the doctor? In the Cleveland Clinic survey, 19 percent admitted they go to the doctor to appease their significant other or loved ones who have been nagging them.

The life expectancy of men is shorter than that of women across both developed and developing countries by an average of 3.9 years. Death rates for adult men across all regions in the world are higher than those for women. Most causes of death in men, such as cardiovascular disease, injuries, road traffic accidents, cancers, violence, war, infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS), and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, are not male-specific and are preventable or amenable to early intervention.

Why Men Avoid Doctor Visits?

In Malaysia, the difference in average life expectancy between men and women follows the global pattern. In 2007, life expectancy in Malaysia was about 71.7 years for men and 76.5 years for women. The common causes of death in Malaysian men align with global trends, with cardiovascular disease and transport accidents ranking as the top two. Additionally, Malaysian men suffer from a high prevalence of chronic disorders and health risk factors, including hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, and smoking.

Early studies revealed that men were thought to be reluctant to seek health care services unless necessary. Men were noted to uphold their masculine image by being strong, stoic, and self-sufficient in terms of health care.

A study conducted in Malaysia in 2011 emphasized the need to address common health problems prevalent among men or for which men are at higher risk. Poor help-seeking behavior among men was attributed to the adverse effects of trying to maintain a masculine image.

Avoiding engagement with health care was seen as a way for men to demonstrate their superiority in society and uphold their masculine image, as society expected them to do. The primary life priorities for men were their jobs and wealth, with engagement in health care only becoming a priority as they aged, started families, or faced illness.

Understanding why men avoid doctor visits is crucial in reducing or mitigating the factors that influence this behavior and changing perceptions surrounding men’s health care.