Denial, mistrust and the fear of being perceived as weak are just some of the reasons men neglect their health, according to new research.
Men’s Health Week runs from Monday 13 to Sunday 19 June, 2022, prompting national health information organisation Healthy Male to ask men across Australia what kept them from seeking help with their health when they needed it.
‘A lot of men try to be in charge of many aspects of their lives, but it doesn’t always extend to their health,’ said Healthy Male CEO Simon von Saldern. ‘The idea of being perceived as weak for what should be basic health seeking behaviours is a stigma Healthy Male wants to eliminate.’
Up to one-third of men indicated they would not seek information about private health issues. Health problems perceived as private include erectile dysfunction, chlamydia screening, urinary tract infections, and loss of libido.
The main reasons for not seeking information about serious health issues included ‘never talking about health issues’ (13% of men surveyed) and ‘not feeling comfortable talking about health’ (13%).
Many chose to delay seeking help in the hope the issue would ‘sort itself out’, and only acted when it began to interfere with their daily life.
Simon von Saldern said the results show that as a society, we need to work harder to break down the stigma and barriers associated with decision-making and action taken by men when it comes to seeking health information.
‘Men must seek support early in response to their health and not wait until the health becomes problematic,’ he said. ‘Addressing any misconception that asking for help is a sign of weakness and encouraging men to make informed decisions on evidence-based information are two ways we can encourage men to understand and overcome these barriers and prioritise their health.’
The participants, who were questioned via an online survey and through focus groups, reported feeling a sense of denial about existing health problems and a belief any health issues were just part of the normal ageing process and could be dealt with through mind over matter.
The study found that older men were less likely to trust the information they discovered online because they were unable to authenticate it and were also wary of privacy issues when using the Internet for health queries.
Many participants reported having difficulty starting conversations around health with friends, family, and even doctors.
Healthy Male says it’s working with health professionals and men’s organisations to shift health-seeking behaviour and attitudes.
‘We’re using these findings to tailor the way we communicate health information and are encouraging GPs and other health professionals to proactively encourage their patients to break the silence on their health and not be vague about what concerns them,’ said Mr von Saldern.
‘For example, we know from the research that men are more likely to speak up about their health issues if their doctor starts the conversation with specific questions.
‘Questions get answers. We need to remind men that they have the most important role to play regarding their health. It is important to know that we can do anything but we can’t do everything.’
She’ll be right: what’s stopping men getting help
- Denial: Hoping it’s not an issue? Don’t let it get out of hand – book in for a check-up.
- Delay: Waiting too long to get checked? Don’t sit on your hands – seek advice and chat to your GP.
- Masculinity: Too tough to ask for help? Good health doesn’t happen if you do nothing – it’s in your hands.
- How do I start?: Uneasy talking to your GP? Raise your hand and speak up – questions get answers.
- Trust: Not sure what to believe? Put yourself in safe hands – trust medical experts.