In connection with June's Men's Health Month, created to bring awareness of male-specific health issues, Aflac released findings of its new 2021 Men's Health Issues Survey. The study suggests that men's optimism about their health may not necessarily be realistic, and one of the most common motivators for men to see their doctor — the women in their lives — can often lead to arguments.
According to the national online survey of 1,000 U.S. men, 90% said they lead at least a somewhat healthy lifestyle, but research from the CDC and NHANES suggests men may have some disconnected perceptions about their health. The CDC reports that nearly half of men have high blood pressure, and according to NHANES, 43% of men are obese — not to mention that a number of health issues are unique to or much more common with men than women, such as certain cancers and heart disease.
The Motivating Voices Of Reason For Men
Men agree that a positive, encouraging nudge to go to the doctor can help, with 44% saying their spouse or partner (wife, girlfriend, husband or boyfriend) persuades them the most to visit the doctor. Women, in particular, have the strongest pull, with over half (56%) of men reporting their wives, girlfriends or mothers most persuade them to go to the doctor.
However, the topic of going to the doctor can be a contentious one for men. Although 50% say they discuss health-related issues with their female relatives (wife, girlfriend or mother), 43% said they have argued with or withheld health concerns from them.
Identifying Barriers To Better Health For Men
Lack of education and awareness. The Aflac survey notes that only one-third of respondents feel well informed of the various illnesses and ailments that commonly affect men, while 45% did not visit their doctor for an annual wellness checkup in the past 12 months, making them vulnerable to potential health issues without the chance for early detection.
Negative reasons or beliefs preventing reaching out for help. Despite 37% of men saying they have a strong relationship with their primary care physician and 65% saying they are transparent about their lifestyle habits and health concerns with their doctor, more than half (58%) said they agree with at least one of the following reasons keeping them from obtaining proactive health care:
- It is easier to go to a walk-in urgent care facility or emergency clinic to see a doctor instead of my primary care physician.
- Most ailments will heal themselves.
- I'm too busy with work to see the doctor.
- I feel that going to the doctor makes me feel less masculine.
Men also experience apprehension related to going to the doctor. Over 1 in 5 men (21%) said they experience fear or anxiety about a physician's visit. That number rises to nearly one-third (29%) for men ages 18-34 versus 18% of their parents' generation (50-64 years old).
High cost of medical care. This is another concern for men, with 45% saying they postponed or avoided medical treatment in some form due to costs within the past 12 months, including:
- Not pursuing physician-recommended health screenings and follow-up treatments.
- Not filling a prescription medication after going to see a doctor for a health issue.
- Avoiding going to see a doctor for signs or symptoms of a serious illness or injury.
"Whether it stems from a fear of the doctor, high costs, perceptions around masculinity or a general lack of urgency, men too often avoid preventative care," said Jeramy Tipton, senior vice president of Distribution Expansion and Consumer Markets at Aflac. "The survey results make it clear that more education and discussion around men's health issues is necessary, as well as additional resources such as supplemental insurance to help with the out-of-pocket medical costs that appear to be deterring many men from taking care of themselves."
Those looking to spur men to seek proactive care may want to address their concerns about the high cost of medical care. For example, 10% of men identified getting paid a cash benefit directly as part of an insurance claim would be a top motivator for them to see the doctor.
"When encouraging men to seek proactive care for their well-being, loved ones may be more successful if they consider how to help them alleviate apprehensions about medical costs," Tipton added. "One tool for men's financial toolboxes is Aflac supplemental insurance, which helps with the expenses health insurance doesn't cover. Some policies include a wellness or health screening benefit that pays cash benefits fast for staying on top of one's health."