Why do men hate going to the doctor?

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published September 26, 2019

Key Takeaways

Most men—77%—would rather go shopping with their wife or significant other than go to the doctor, according to a new national survey by the Cleveland Clinic. In fact, 72% of men would rather do household chores, like cleaning the bathroom or mowing the lawn, than go to the doctor.

“Men tend to be stubborn about a lot of things, with taking care of their health usually near the top of the list,” said Eric Klein, MD, chairman, Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute, Cleveland, OH.

Indeed, about two-thirds of men (65%) tend to wait as long as possible to see a doctor when they have any health symptoms or injury. This is particularly true for men ages 35 to 54 years—72% of whom said they try to tough it out before going to the doctor, compared with 59% of men age 55 years and up.

Even among men who do go to the doctor, 20% admit they haven’t been completely honest with their PCP before. Why did they not tell the truth?

  • 46% said they were embarrassed

  • 40% said they felt uncomfortable

  • 39% said they didn’t want to be judged

  • 38% said they thought their health problem would resolve on its own

  • 37% said they knew something was wrong, but weren’t ready to face the diagnosis and/or would rather not know if they have any health issues

  • 36% said they didn’t want to hear they needed to change their diet/lifestyle (ie, exercise more, change diet, quit smoking, etc)

Then again, most men would rather talk to their doctors about weight and diet than about their sexual health. Specifically, 46% of men said the most uncomfortable topic to discuss with the doctor is sex-related concerns, such as their sexual history and “below the belt” issues (skin irritations, erectile dysfunction, sexually transmitted diseases/infections, etc).

Augmenting annual visits

The survey included responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,174 American males aged 18 years and older.

Not surprisingly—given the numbers above and men’s do-it-yourself mentality—the majority (65%) of men prefer to try to self-diagnose before going to the doctor. But if push comes to shove, 81% of men would rather go to the doctor than “crowdsource” for medical advice on social media, blogs, or discussion forums.

Only 50% said that they get an annual check-up as a regular part of taking care of themselves.

“Another key finding was that 61% of men said they would be more likely to go to their annual check-up if seeing the doctor was more convenient for them,” said Dr. Klein. Such conveniences would involve offering virtual visits, scheduling appointments outside of work hours, having someone else make the appointment for them, and/or getting screened at events they’re already participating in.

Stop the stigma

So, what’s the underlying reason for all this stubbornness and stonewalling about going to the doctor? It could be as simple as being told as a boy to just “Take it like a man.” Indeed, 41% of men say they were told as children that men don’t complain about health issues.

“It’s time to get rid of the stigma that a man isn’t allowed to show weakness by admitting something might be wrong—it could save his life,” said Dr. Klein.

To that end, the Cleveland Clinic has launched an educational campaign called MENtion It, which draws attention to the problem that men often don’t mention health issues or take steps to prevent them.

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