There is plenty of statistical evidence to back up the fact that men make far fewer visits to the doctors than women. The starkest fact of all is that 19% of men in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and 22% of men in Scotland die before the age of 65. That means that they never get to enjoy their hard-earned retirement years.
Part of the reason for the inequalities in men’s and women’s health outcomes is put down to social and cultural constructs of society. Women are more likely to talk about health issues with family and friends, while men would rather talk about sports and hobbies. Some still feel that there is a stigma about revealing their problems to others.
Mike Shallcross, associate editor of Men’s Health magazine told the BBC: “Men could learn from women about attitudes to health. I would characterise it as the way they treat their cars. Women drive very carefully and make sure they take it into the garage at the right time but men just put their foot down until it’s knackered.”
He adds: “Men tend not to talk about health. Eight years ago we did a survey which found that men like to talk about sport, women, and cars. Even politics is more popular than health issues. It has slightly opened up since but there’s still a problem. Taking risks and thinking nothing bad will happen is even seen as part and parcel of being a man.”
While it is true that many men do not like talking about health problems, especially topics of a highly sensitive and personal nature such as erectile dysfunction or impotence, recently another truth has come to light. This is because men do not, or are not able to, take time off work to visit their GP.
Men’s Health Forum reports that when men have the opportunity, after retirement, to visit the doctor, they make just as many visits as women. However, amongst those in full-time work, 37% of men had seen their GP in the last three months, compared to 53% of women.
Worryingly, 40% of men wouldn’t take time off work to have an unexplained lump checked out, and 42% wouldn’t for chest pains. Perhaps most concerningly of all, up to 85% of men wouldn’t take time off work for feelings such as depression, anxiety, and low mood. This is reflected in the fact that men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women.
There have been calls for improved access to mental health services, as well as health services in general, outside of working hours. However, progress has been slow, and given the monumental scale of the backlogs and other issues currently facing the NHS in the wake of the pandemic, things aren’t likely to change any time soon.
For some conditions, including ED and hair loss, men are being encouraged to talk to a pharmacist. This can be done discreetly online, from the privacy of their own homes. After an initial consultation, they may be able to gain a prescription for medications such as Viagra or its equivalents, which can enhance sexual performance.
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