Everyone hates going to the doctor, but studies suggest men really hate it. Experts suspect that’s because visiting a healthcare provider, at the end of the day, means relinquishing control. Pride may not be a sickness, but it sure isn’t helping.
“Much like having to ask for directions when lost while driving, there is a sense that they now have to admit there is something they cannot fix on their own,” psychiatrist Dr. Brian Cassmassi told Fatherly. “Men from ages 20 to 40 more often only think they need to go to the doctor if something is wrong.”
Even when they’re sick, more than 60 percent of men will not go to the doctor, according to data from the Cleveland Clinic. When they do go, the stereotype of the nagging spouse seems to be a primary influence—the same study found that 83 percent of women encourage their spouses or significant others.
At least part of this appears to be tied to masculinity. There’s evidence that men who perceive themselves as “tough” are less likely than the average man to visit the doctor and be honest about their symptoms. But it’s likely a combination of both masculinity and martyrdom—gender norms put legitimate pressure on men to be breadwinners and avoid calling in sick to visit the doctor. “One of the top reasons cited by men for not going to the doctor is that they’re too busy,” physician Dr. Nicole Rochester told Fatherly. “Men prioritize work and providing financially for their family over their own health.”
Loved ones can help by anticipating this aversion and encouraging men to take their symptoms seriously—researching with them, making appointments on their behalf, and even accompanying them to the doctor’s office, Rochester recommends. But at the end of the day, it’s the responsibility of men to take care of their own health. And it doesn’t have to be emasculating. Think of it as calling in an expert, when DIY just can’t cut it.
“Society traditionally reveres the man who is king of his domain and can be a problem solver,” Cassmassi says. “Going to the doctor means acknowledging that someone else has more knowledge and experience.”