For far too long, men have been expected to stay ‘strong’. Shamed for showing emotion whether upset or in physical pain; research has shown that women are much more likely receive comfort if in distress, whereas men are told to ‘walk it off’ or ‘man up’. The expectations placed on men affect the way many communicate about their health concerns. Some feel too embarrassed to share their feelings with others and for many, this may include being reluctant to visit the GP. Research shows that men are much less likely to visit a doctor to discuss their health concerns compared to women. This has a significant impact on health statistics; in the UK, suicide is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 45. Drug and alcohol addiction have a significantly higher prevalence in men, compared to women. A survey conducted by ‘Men’s Health Forum’, found that men were twice as likely to have inadequate health literacy; meaning that many did not understand the risks related to their wellbeing e.g. cardiovascular or sexual health.
Caring about health is too often seen as a feminine concern. Attitudes are slowly changing, but the numbers speak for themselves. Understanding when to seek medical attention is essential for reducing the rate of serious illness and premature death for men who don’t feel comfortable to talk about their health. If you or someone you know are experiencing any of the conditions described, it may be time to ‘man up’ and get in touch with your GP.
5 Manly Reasons you should visit your GP
1. Depression and Anxiety
Mental illness can be expressed in different ways. Besides feeling low or worried, anxiety and depression can also present as persistent anger or irritability, alongside negative thought patterns and difficulty sleeping. Too many men keep their mental health to themselves significantly reducing the likelihood of recovery and contributing to the growing numbers of male suicide.
2. Cardiovascular Disease
High blood pressure and cholesterol increases the risk of heart attack or stroke for both sexes, however, the number of deaths from heart disease is higher for men worldwide. Men are at much greater risk, so, if you are overweight, over 50, and have a family history of heart disease, it is essential you have regular check-ups with your GP.
3. Erectile Dysfunction
While perhaps uncomfortable to talk about, erectile dysfunction affects 1 in 5 men in the UK, and the statistics rise to up to 50% if you are over the age of 50. Erectile dysfunction has numerous causes from depression or the side effects of medication to simply wearing your belt too tight. Besides being an inconvenience; for those over 50, erectile dysfunction has been linked to cardiovascular disease, so, your GP may be able to help if it is becoming a regular problem.
4. Sexual Health
We’ve all heard of sexually transmitted diseases; they can be uncomfortable and lead to infertility, so, it’s probably better to get things checked out before you pass it on to someone else. This is relevant for men who have sex with women and men who have sex with men. Sexual health also refers to reducing the risk of testicular or prostate cancers which have high rates of successful treatment if caught early. If you find something unusual ‘down there’ or you believe you may fall into a high-risk group, get things checked by a GP.
Addiction commonly refers to drug and alcohol dependency but also includes many other things such as gambling and sex. Addiction has the potential to tear families apart and ruin the lives of individuals, so, if you are starting to feel out of control, it is important you get some help. There is no shame in acknowledging you have a problem and asking for guidance or support.
Challenging Gender Stereotypes
Regardless of your gender identity, health and wellbeing is important to take care of. Visiting the GP to discuss your assigned gender may be anxiety-provoking but can help to explore options and set you on the right track for the future. The health risks described above are just as relevant no matter where you sit on the gender spectrum. Your GP can offer non-judgemental advice and support for a number of health or lifestyle concerns. It is more important that as a society, we start embrace fluidity, challenge gender stereotypes, and take control of our health. So, don’t conform to expectations, find out more about health risks, take ownership of your health and make sure you book in for regular check-ups with your GP.
Bots, S., Peters, S. & Woodward, M. (2017). Sex differences in coronary heart disease and stroke mortality: a global assessment of the effect of ageing between 1980 and 2010. BMJ Global Health;2:e000298.
Thompson, A., Anisimowicz, Y., Miedema, B., Hogg, W. & Wodchis, W. (2016). The influence of gender and other patient characteristics on health care-seeking behaviour: a QUALICOPC study. BMC Family Practise; 17(38).