A recent Men’s Health Survey by Aflac reveals that many men are not paying enough attention to their personal health care. And they're particularly tight lipped about their mental health.
“The Men’s Health Survey found that too many men are walking a tightrope when it comes to their physical and mental health, said Jeramy Tipton, senior vice president of Distribution Expansion at Aflac. “Even with improved access to telemedicine, our study found over half of men go to the doctor only when they feel sick or had an accident.”
In fact, Tipton added, fewer than half had a routine wellness visit in the last 12 months. And at the same time, one in four men admitted they’ve never talked to anybody about their mental health and well-being, despite nearly three quarters having experienced some type of mental or behavior health concern in the past year alone.
There could be a variety of reasons men are reluctant to seek help regarding their health. They may feel overly optimistic, feel invincible, or even anxious about what they’ll learn about their health, explained Tipton.
For others, it is simply the cost of health care. “Roughly two-out-of-five men postponed or avoided going to a doctor because of the costs, and a quarter don’t think they have enough insurance to cover all of their medical needs,” Tipton said.
Regardless of the reason, many men are missing important opportunities to proactively screen for illnesses, which could prevent more serious and costly health issues in the future, added Tipton. While it may be something they’d rather delay, keeping those annual wellness visits could make a world of difference to improve overall well-being, as well as other things like financial security and productivity at work and at home.
Gen Z, millennials more concerned
The survey also noted that Gen Z and millennial men especially report mental and behavioral health concerns, as well as an effect on productivity. As it reported, 79% of respondents in these categories report having experienced a mental-health concern within the past year, compared to 57% of Gen Xers and 68% of Baby Boomers
“While the survey didn’t drill down in terms of “why” younger generations have had higher reports of mental health concerns over the past year, our survey was consistent with similar surveys, including a 2020 study by the CDC, which found that 63% of young adults were experiencing depression or anxiety,” said Tipton. “I think one factor is that there is a greater awareness among today’s generation about mental health and how it can impact your overall health, compared to previous generations.”
Tipton also believes that there is a greater willingness to discuss mental health and seek treatment, as it has become less stigmatized and more aligned with a holistic healthcare program.
Encouraging men to care
To encourage men to seek help, companies can take several steps, Tipton advised. For example, since many men reported interest in mental- health tools and resources, companies should look at offering benefits that include these options.
Additionally, because cost can be a barrier, companies can give their employees the gift of financial peace of mind with the following:
• Supplemental insurance, which can help take care of expenses health insurance doesn’t cover.
• Financial- planning resources to help give employees a framework for making the most of their finances and plan for the future.
• Telemedicine to remove the barrier of seeing a doctor, therapist or counselor in person. This makes it easier for men to seek help when they need it, Tipton said.
Avoiding final expense topic
Among the numerous topics the study explored was final expense. It found that that this is a very big issue that no one likes to talk about. “In fact, most of the men surveyed – up to 68%-- admitted they’d rather do things like finish a honey-do list than talk about final expenses with loved ones,” Tipton said.
Understandably, this is a difficult conversation, but it’s alarming because a third of men admit they don’t know how they’ll pay for final expenses. “Employers can help by encouraging men to take the first step of making a plan by offering financial-wellness and planning resources, as well as offering final expense insurance to protect their loved ones,” Tipton said.
The Men's Health Study was conducted online in May 2022 by Kantar Profiles on behalf of Aflac and included a nationally representative sample of 1,001 men ages 18-65.
Ayo Mseka has more than 30 years of experience reporting on the financial services industry. She formerly served as editor-in-chief of NAIFA’s Advisor Today magazine. Contact her at [email protected].