Men Likely to Put Off the Doctor

ByABC News
June 6, 2002, 1:25 PM

June 7 -- Maybe it's just a guy thing. Men duck doctors when sick and avoid checkups when well.

"Study after study has shown that men are more reluctant to face up to worrisome symptoms or go to the doctor for checkups," says Dr. Timothy Johnson, ABCNEWS' medical editor. "And that is probably one big reason why men's life expectancy, which in the early 1900s was virtually the same for both sexes, now lags behind women's by approximately six years."

Men are also less likely to see themselves as susceptible to disease or injury when, in fact, they are more susceptible, says Dr. Will Courtenay, director of Men's Health Consulting in Berkeley, Calif., a lecturer at Harvard Medical School and editor of the International Journal of Men's Health.

A woman's lifetime risk for cancer is one in three, for example, while a man's is one in two. "Compared to women, men have higher death rates for all top 10 leading causes of death," says Courtenay.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

So what is it about a visit with a "white coat" that has men dragging their heels?

Perhaps just what patient David Hutson described to ABCNEWS' Good Morning America as a typical visit: "Doctor's offices are so cold, you have to get naked, and then stare at diagrams that make you feel like an idiot."

"Many say they're 'too busy,' 'they feel good,' and that's there's 'nothing wrong with them,' " says Dr. Neil Coleman, a family physician with HealthWise Medical Associates in Vernon, Conn.

Others see it as a waste of time and money, a problem magnified by the fact that "men are less likely than women to have health insurance," says Courtenay.

"To make sure I'm not dying, I give blood several times a year. They check my blood pressure and pulse. Who needs the doctor?" Brian Flynn tells Good Morning America.

Agrees Hutson: "The best thing a doctor can tell you is 'You are fine.' So, for all the effort, the best result is 'You're OK', which you probably figured anyway. Why do I need a doctor?"