Men have lower life expectancy than women and (surprise, surprise) are less likely to stay on top of their health with regular doctor visits. So, are you or your man-person overdue an appointment?
If you only read one thing, make it this:
Seven of the 10 most common risk factors for chronic disease occur more often in men than in women.
Do you know the name of your doctor? If you’re a woman, the answer is likely to be ‘yes’ – and you probably have the clinic phone number saved in your phone, too. But if you’re a man, your familiarity with your doctor is probably a little more… ad hoc. Research shows that men are less likely than women to have a regular general practice and to have visited a GP in the past year. And not only do men visit the doctor less frequently, they have shorter visits and only turn up when their illness is in its later stages.
That’s something GP Dr Ginni Mansberg sees first-hand.
“I think men don’t prioritise their health as a core value the way women do – they won’t make time for it in the way women do,” she comments. “The other thing is that women are used to seeing a doctor regularly from a young age for the pill or pap smears, but the [check-up] routine doesn’t seem to happen for men.”
Dr Mansberg says our culture encourages men to be tough and independent, something that might make them uncomfortable about doctors’ visits. In fact, the idea that they should be able to ‘tough it out’, and the fear that they might be told something they don’t want to hear, are some of the reasons men typically avoid regular GP appointments.
Sure, it takes time, it can cost money (if your practice isn’t bulk-billed) and the doctor might not find anything. But visiting the doctor is worth the time and money – especially when you consider the cost (in both time and money) of becoming seriously ill. Keep in mind that Aussie men have a shorter life expectancy than women, with three men dying for every two women who die. Plus, seven of the 10 most common risk factors associated with chronic disease occur more often in men than women.
“We need preventative health,” says Dr Mansberg, who wants men to do a better job of monitoring their health. “We know that men have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity and liver disease. Also, men need to take mental health seriously – women are much more proactive about that.”
When to go
If you have high risk factors for diseases such as heart disease (like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or being overweight or obese) or diabetes (elevated blood glucose or ‘pre diabetes’, family history of diabetes or being overweight or obese), you should visit your doctor regularly. Even if you are well, regular health checks are recommended to help you stay healthy and pick up early warning signs of illness.
Oh, and if you’re scared about being subjected to ‘the probe’ test for prostate cancer, don’t be. Research shows that issues with genitals make up only a small percentage of Aussie men’s visits to doctors.