Research shows that men are significantly less likely than women to visit their GP. Why is this, asks Rowan Walker, and what can we do about it?
Here are five true facts about men:
• They drink more than women.
• They smoke more than women.
• They don’t live as long as women.
• They engage in more high-risk activities than women.
• They moan more about having a cold than women (OK, maybe this one isn’t a scientifically proven fact. But it’s true).
So why do they have such a big problem with going to the doctor?
Even when they are dying of man-flu or hobbling around in agony, making an appointment with the GP is often the last thing that springs to mind. And when they do make it down to the surgery, it’s quite often thanks to a pestering woman. This is no way to live.
There are always excuses reasons as to why going to the doctor is not a good idea. ”What if I am actually dying?” ”They don’t know anything!” ”What if they ask me to do something I don’t want to?” Some even share the concern of Mark from Peep Show: “But what if I get a hard-on?”
Can it really be a combination of fear, pride and weakness that is preventing the male population from making that visit? Men can’t be so stupid as to put their health at risk for fear of looking fragile – can they?Read more
To be honest, I used to think that most men just couldn’t be bothered. But now, the problem has become so serious that the Men’s Health Forum (MHF), a group set up to raise awareness of men’s health, is calling for GP surgeries to become more ”male-friendly”. MHF research has found that men in Britain go to the doctors 20% less than women, not because they have fewer reasons to go, but because they feel ”put off by doctors”.
Now I can’t imagine anyone likes hanging out at their GP’s surgery much, but it’s interesting to see that the MHF thinks NHS practices are particularly unfriendly towards men. The charity has recently released a statement saying:
”THE NHS MUST ADDRESS MEN’S UNDER-USE OF GPS AS WELL AS THEIR UNDER-USE OF PHARMACIES, SMOKING CESSATION, WEIGHT MANAGEMENT SERVICES AND HEALTH TRAINERS AND LOOK FOR WAYS TO DEVELOP A GENDER-SENSITIVE APPROACH TO SERVICE PROVISON.”
Mike Shallcross, the deputy editor of Men’s Health magazine, explains the gender gap by saying that women have a much healthier relationship with their bodies. ”They see it as a question of maintenance, whereas men see it as a question of repair. Men treat their bodies a bit like a car: once it’s burnt out they’ll fix it, but until then they power on.”
In fairness to men, women have had more practice at looking after their bodies. Having to deal with periods from an early age, working out how not to get pregnant, how to get pregnant, how to give birth …
But Dr Ian Banks, the head of the MHF, points out that: ”Women have higher consultation rates for a wide range of illnesses, so the gender differences cannot be explained simply by their need for contraceptive and pregnancy care.”
Arguably, it’s easier for women to get time off work for doctors’ appointments. Mention cystitis or thrush to a male boss and they are likely to give you as much time as you need. Whereas unless men have an actual visual physical ailment such as a broken foot or black eye, they probably won’t get much sympathy.
But going to the doctor is something everyone should do, no matter how many apples they eat, or how frustrating it can be to get an appointment. And if men are being put off, or allowing conditions to become worse because of late diagnosis, then something is going wrong.
Going to the doctor, for the most part, is like having an MOT or a re-fuel – it doesn’t mean you’re heading for the scrapheap. So let’s hope surgeries start making it easier for men to see a doctor – and not just for the sake of their wives and mothers.Are men really less likely than women to visit the doctor? If so, why? Share your views in the comments section below.
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