Men's health: The rules of patient engagement
Ask a primary care physician (PCP) to name the most common health challenges adult male patients face, and chances are that he or she will tick off a familiar list, ranging from prostate cancer to diabetes. But before they can begin addressing those problems, PCPs face a more basic challenge, which is persuading men just to come in at all.
The reasons why men are reluctant to seek medical care are not entirely clear, but are probably tied to notions of masculinity and fears of vulnerability. A study titled “‘Macho Men’ and Preventive Health Care,” published in 2011 in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that “men with strong masculinity beliefs are half as likely as men with more moderate masculinity beliefs to receive preventive care.”
“Trying to get men to come in for a routine physical is next to impossible because they think they’re going to live forever,” says William Silverman, DO, an internist in solo practice in Seminole County, Florida.
“When they’re younger, men think they’re invincible, they don’t need to go to the doctor,” he says. “Then when they hit 40, they start thinking about the future and working their tails off, but they get so focused on their work they don’t want to take time to come in.”
Whatever the reasons, men appear to be paying a price in terms of life expectancy. In 2010 it stood at 76.2 years for men, compared with 81 years for women, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.