Well Prevention

Why Men Avoid the Doctor — and What You Can Do About It

June 15, 2020
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© Per Swantesson / Stocksy United
Quick Read

Avoiding the doctor is dangerous

  • Men often avoid or put off going to the doctor.
  • By doing this, they’re missing out on important health screenings.
  • Some issues like prostate cancer and high blood pressure may not have symptoms.
  • Virtual visits and online scheduling make seeing a doctor more convenient.

You’ve dropped subtle hints, left gentle reminders and resorted to outright nagging, but nothing seems to do the trick. Your man simply refuses to go to the doctor — and he’s not the only one.

Men are notorious for shirking their annual exams, delaying medical care, withholding information from their doctors and even ignoring medical advice.

Don’t believe it? One national survey found that 72% of men would rather do household chores like clean the bathroom than go see their doctor. And another survey from the American Academy of Family Physicians noted that men often ignore their doctor’s instructions about things like filling prescriptions or showing up for follow-up visits.

This isn’t just frustrating — it can be downright dangerous for your fella’s health.

“What might go unnoticed as a gradual change to an individual can be picked up by a doctor who sees you once a year and is screening for common problems,” explains Dr. Maahum Haider, a urologist who sees patients at the Men’s Health Center at UW Medical Center – Roosevelt.

To help convince the man in your life that, yes, he really needs to see his doctor regularly for health’s sake, Haider shares all the reasons why he should change his tune about that annual exam.

Why are men less likely to see a doctor?

While there’s no way to pinpoint exactly why your guy avoids visiting the doctor, Haider says men’s attitudes about their health may play a role.

“I think younger men still feel a little invincible and don’t put as much stock in minor changes in their health,” she says. “As men get older and start to juggle more responsibilities, they may not prioritize their health to the degree they should.”

Men may also be anxious about visiting the doctor or finding out they have a health problem, so your partner may be more inclined to avoid regular medical care all together. Or he might consider going to the doctor as a last resort when it’s an emergency situation.

“Unfortunately, cost may be another reason because some people have high co-pays and deductibles,” Haider adds.

On top of avoiding the doctor, when men do make it to an appointment, they’re also more likely to withhold important information or not follow medical instructions about prescriptions and follow-up visits.

“Some men are embarrassed about revealing certain problems, and a lot of that has to do with cultural taboos or societal shaming,” Haider says. “I think that’s a serious problem, but the bottom line is trust. If you don’t feel you can share personal information with your doctor without judgement, then you should probably find a doctor you feel more comfortable with.”

What are common health concerns for men?

Whether your man is blasé about his health or anxious about seeing a doctor, he should realize that getting an annual exam is important for a lot of reasons.

“From a urologic standpoint, the most common problem that can cause serious health issues is prostate cancer,” Haider says. “Most cases are very slow growing and don’t cause any symptoms, so screening is the only way to identify it before it becomes symptomatic.”

That can mean if your guy is avoiding the doctor, he might be missing out on the opportunity to catch prostate cancer early and start life-saving treatments as soon as possible.

“If you wait for a problem to manifest, it may be too late to cure or may require more aggressive treatments,” Haider explains.

It’s not just prostate issues, either. At wellness exams, primary care physicians and family medicine doctors also check for issues with his heart and lungs, diabetes, high cholesterol, skin cancer and other underlying health issues that your partner may not even realize are a problem.

Men who are younger than 30 should get this type of wellness check every two to three years, while those who are older than that need to pay a visit to the doctor’s office every year.

What can happen if a man avoids the doctor?

After thinking all this over, your man may still not be convinced he needs to go in for a regular check-up. But those years of avoidance have consequences.

Things like high blood pressure have been called the “silent killer” for a reason — because they can lead to a higher risk of stroke, heart failure and kidney disease without him even knowing it. And chances are he’s not checking his blood pressure on the regular, right?

Something else that’s telling is how married men — who are more likely to see the doctor at their partner’s insistence — fare compared to their single peers. According to one report, married men have better health indicators and less risk of certain conditions like heart attack or stroke.

“We know that married men live longer than single men, and I think a lot of that has to do with having someone around who cares about you and prompts you to seek care,” Haider says. “Sometimes all it takes is to know there are people who love you and want you around.”

While your partner is ultimately the only one who can decide to make his health a priority, you can help by reminding him that you care about him and want to make sure he’s healthy enough to be around for years to come.

How are doctor’s visits more convenient?

Let’s say your guy has finally admitted that he should schedule a doctor’s appointment but complains that he can’t find the time to do it. Well, lucky for him, seeing a doctor is now easier and more convenient than ever.

Telehealth and phone visits are a great way to get certain types of care that can be very convenient for someone with a busy schedule or transportation challenges,” Haider says.

And while some parts of a physical exam and things like prostate cancer screenings can’t be done via a video chat, he can still find handy ways to communicate with his doctor. For example, requesting an appointment, accessing medical records and messaging with his care team can now all be done online or from an app on his phone.

The bottom line is that in order to enjoy his good health for years to come, he needs to stop ignoring it and start making it a top priority.

As for all those gentle reminders? Well, you can tell him to thank you later.

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