Unless you’re a kid on a mission to score that post-shot lollipop, you’re probably not stoked about seeing the doctor—and it turns out men might be extra reluctant to get the care they need, too. According to a 2014 survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men are half as likely as women to go to the doctor over a two-year period, more than three times as likely to let five years go by without a visit, and more than twice as likely to admit never having had contact with a healthcare provider as an adult.
They say health is the greatest gift of all. And if you can’t stand the thought of presenting your dad with one more tie this Father’s Day, it might be worth taking that age-old adage to heart. Unfortunately, men often don’t receive proper care, despite their increased risk for a long list of serious issues. A 2016 survey commissioned by Orlando Health found that the top excuses men make to avoid scheduling doctor appointments include everything from a jam-packed schedule to fear, to embarrassment.
“I see a lot of [men] and when they come in, it’s always like, ‘my partner’s been on my back telling me I need to make an appointment’—they finally see me and it’s been 10 years since they’ve been to a doctor!” says New York physician Navya Mysore.
While the men in your life may not be practicing the self-care they need, you can do your part to help inform and empower them to make better health choices.
Men’s Top Healthcare Obstacles—And How to Help Overcome Them
Obstacle #1: They’re too busy: According to the Orlando Health survey, 24 percent of participants cited busyness as their main reason for avoiding medical appointments. “They usually say it’s because they haven’t had time,” says Mysore. “They haven’t made time for it because in their minds, it hasn’t been a priority.”
How to help: Walking your dad/husband/friend/etc. through the logistics can be a huge help. “Figure out when they have some free time and have them schedule it then as opposed to a time when they’ll likely be busy,” says Mysore. “The key is to find a provider or clinic that will be convenient for their needs.” Some people also find safety in numbers when it comes to tackling health issues. “If they have someone—a friend or partner who is going to make an appointment—they can book appointments back to back, make a morning out of it, and go for a healthy brunch after!”
Obstacle #2: They’re afraid. Whether they’re nervous about the actual appointment itself or the news they might receive as a result of tests or exams, many men avoid doctors out of fear. “A lot of people know they need to improve their lifestyle habits but are hesitant to hear anything they’re not ready to put into practice,” says Mysore.
How to help: Mysore advises patients to look to their social circles for moral support. “Have them talk to other friends or partners who have done their visits before so they can have an idea of what to expect,” she says. “And have them go to a preliminary appointment to establish care with their provider so they can get to know them before talking about certain tests that might make them feel uncomfortable.”
Obstacle #3: It’s…weird. Another top reason men avoid the clinic? The thought of an embarrassing physical inspection. “Guys can definitely be uncomfortable with exams for sure—some get so nervous, their blood pressure goes through the roof!” says Mysore. “It’s awkward.”
How to help: “Help them pick a provider they would feel comfortable with—male or female—and do some research from reputable sources to know what to expect,” says Mysore. “It might be awkward, but thinking about how they are preventing possible cancer can help them go forward.”
Obstacle #4: They don’t want your advice. Trying to tell your parents or peers what to do can feel pretty crunchy. “One thing parents or older individuals hate is feeling like they’re being babied,” says Mysore.
How to help: Get on their level. “It can be helpful to say something like, ‘Hey, I went to my physical and I got these results and I’m super happy to know I’m clear and don’t have to worry about it,’” says Mysore. “Or saying to them, ‘I went to my annual physical and I have a list of things to work on—can you help me figure out how to reduce my stress levels or reduce the salt content in my diet, etc.?’ It puts the seed in their brain that maybe they should go get checked out too.”
Mysore says she also finds it helpful to remind her male patients of their influence on others. “I see a lot of older dads and I remind them that they’re role models for their kids in terms of taking care of themselves,” she says. “Kids learn from their parents’ behavior.”
However you choose to broach the topic with the men in your life, it’s important to position health care as a serious, practical matter—and consider getting straight to the point. “The more direct you are, the better,” says Mysore. “Any time we skirt around those words, we build the stigma a little bit more, so it’s important to be as direct as possible and make it something that’s not such a big deal.”
If you’re still not sure how to encourage the men in your life to get the care they need, consider sharing important screening information in a text, email, or social media post. Here’s a one-stop resource with details on the six health screenings every man should have on his radar.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.