Our Readers' Opinions
July 30, 2010
What makes men so scared about seeing the doctor?

by Dr. Jerrol Thompson Fri, Jul 30, 2010

Approximately 60% of Vincentians will eventually have either Diabetes or Hypertension but 25% of these will have the dreaded combination of both. These two conditions, Sugar and Pressure, run in families, but are far more the long standing effects of unhealthy diets and lifestyles which can severely hamper one’s enjoyment of twilight and retired years and sap all the savings, financial resources and fun after a life of hard work.{{more}}

However, men are often less able to enjoy their twilight years because they failed to make some simple healthy investments earlier in live. Of males with hypertension or diabetes, only 35% are aware of it and when left untreated, diabetes can cause impaired vision, blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, heart attack, infections, amputation and impotence.

Prostate Cancer is also a growing cause of male deaths in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and screening with a PSA blood test and simple exam can provide early detection. Colon cancer is another leading cause of cancer death where risks increase threefold if you have a first-degree relative with cancer or a history of polyps. Regular Colonoscopy will detect 95 percent of colon-cancer.

Men visit doctors six times less than women

Unfortunately, men visit doctors six times less than women and many even have a serious aversion to seeing a physician. They indulge in the art of denial, until they’re hit with a life-threatening condition before there is any change towards preventive medicine.

What makes men so scared and yes CHICKEN! about seeing a doctor before it may be too late? Numerous books have been written on this subject. It is claimed that women are invariably groomed by the nature of Gynaecological (period, annual pap smears and contraception); Urology (urine infections, bottom belly pain) and Obstetrics (trying to have a Baby) issues to constantly interact and become more comfortable and accustomed to seeing a doctor. They develop a trusting interaction where advice is more accepted. Women experience continuity of care from childhood, while men are pretty much left to their own devices after they hit puberty. At around age sixteen, when women increasingly see physicians for preventive gynecologic or maternity care and establish a lifelong pattern for seeing and confidence in physicians. Men do not. Males from teen years believe that apart from injury, they don’t need to see a physician and by the age of 40, they are not attached to a regular physician and are at a higher risk to get into trouble.

Health services may make some men feel unwelcome

Studies have shown that health services may make some men feel unwelcome. When asked if they could change one thing to increase their desire to visit a doctor, most men suggested extended doctor’s hours. This was a reasonable request; however, the problem is far deeper than this. Many men learn attitudes that pre-dispose them to poor health and greater risk-taking, such as, drinking 6-12 beers on the weekends, rum, tobacco use, not exercising, a sedentary lifestyle and eating bad foods which elevate cholesterol and triglycerides or have a family history of genetically inherited diseases, hypertension, in addition to the poor use of health services.

Men are more likely to try to tough out their illness

Men are more likely to try to tough out their illness; more likely to give priority to work commitments over treatment and rest; likely to have a self image which denies illness (illness equals weakness); unlikely to discuss their health problems and more apt to develop silent, deep, irrational fears about the consequences of illness and disease. This thinking is quite widespread among males. I may be criticised for this article but the present state of male health is a very critical public health problem and encouraging men to make even one doctor’s visit a year will be a major achievement. So men, wake up and smell the coffee.

As we are not socialized to routinely visit a doctor, we tend to rationalize reasons to avoid them. We deal with this emotional conflict with defiant, self-assuring and invalid explanations to perpetuate our behaviour. We pretend to be invincible and handle the stress and fears of becoming seriously ill by exaggerating the negative qualities of the health-care system. Other ill-advised public statements can further discourage persons from hospitals, clinics or immunisation.

If you’re a guy who waits until something is seriously wrong before going to a doctor, you’re certainly not alone. Even under the best circumstances, when men have health insurance and a primary doctor, 58% still say that something holds them back from actually going to the doctor. Public clinics and private physicians may need to resort to calling their clients (especially males) to ensure there is at least one annual medical exam.

If your girlfriend wants you to get tested before having sex, why fight this?

Some men think going to a doctor is a “chick thing”; and it’s true, women do go to the doctor far more frequently and this is reflected in the harsh reality that women live 7.5 years longer than men. If your girlfriend wants you to get tested before having sex, why fight this? Get that peace of mind. If you are losing weight, urinating frequently or getting a little weaker, or if there is a little blood in your urine or a funny pain in your chest, going to the Doctor is not giving in to your nagging wife, it may be the sign of something far more serious.

Ultimately, if you don’t have a girlfriend, wife or mother nagging you, you’re less likely to go the doctor. So women, Please! Continue to nag your fathers, brothers, sons and husbands to get that check-up as this is currently the most effective factor in changing their attitude, however men, we must change our attitude for ourselves.