Why Men Skip Doctor Visits

Many Say They Feel Fine and Only Go to the Doctor When They're Extremely Sick

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on June 20, 2007

June 20, 2007 -- Many U.S. men only go to their doctor when they're extremely sick, skipping preventive care, a new survey shows.

Harris Interactive conducted the online survey of more than 1,100 men for the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The men completed the survey between April 30 and May 2. Survey topics included why men go to their doctor -- and why they stay away from the doctor's office.

While most men -- 85% -- said they seek medical treatment when they're sick, almost all -- 92% -- said they waited at least a few days to see if they felt better before seeking care.

Nearly 30% of the men push that strategy to the limits, saying they wait "as long as possible" to see if they get better before seeking medical care or advice.

"One of the biggest obstacles to improving the health of men is men themselves. They don't make their health a priority," states AAFP President Rick Kellerman, MD, in an AAFP news release.

What's the Problem?

In the survey, most men indicated that they have health insurance, have a doctor, and feel comfortable talking to their doctor.

However, more than half of the men -- 58% -- said something keeps them from going to the doctor.

Why the reluctance? The survey included a list of possible reasons; the men could select more than one reason. Here are their responses:

  • I only go to the doctor if I am extremely sick: 36%
  • I am healthy, I have no reason to go to a doctor: 23%
  • I prefer to treat myself naturally: 12%
  • I don't have time to go to the doctor: 12%
  • I don't have health insurance: 11%
  • I don't like doctors: 8%
  • I am afraid of finding out that something is wrong with me: 7%
  • I don't know of a good doctor in my area: 4%

Also, 39% of the men said nothing prevented them from going to the doctor.

Feeling Good

In the survey, the men also rated their health. Nearly 80% said they felt they were in excellent, very good, or good health.

But feeling fine doesn't always mean you're in tip-top shape.

For instance, someone who dodges doctor visits might not know whether their cholesterol or blood pressure is too high. Those problems don't have obvious symptoms.

"Many men are unaware that simple screening tests and lifestyle changes can dramatically improve their quality of life," Kellerman says.

The survey shows that 28% of the men had been diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension), 13% with arthritis, 10% with diabetes, 8% with cancer, and 8% with heart disease.

The men also noted that, on average, they spend nearly 19 hours per week watching television but less than five hours per week exercising or working out.

Nudge, Nudge

Men may be more likely to see their doctor if their wife or partner encourages them to do so, according to the survey.

Most of the men who completed the survey -- 69% -- said they had a spouse or significant other.

Of those men, nearly 80% said their spouse/significant other influences their decision to go to the doctor.

When men do go to the doctor, most say they always or usually follow their doctor's advice, the survey also notes.

  • Are you guilty of avoiding the doctor? Why? Tell us about it on the Men’s Health: Man-to-Man message board.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Harris Interactive, "Executive Summary Report: Men's Health Study" for the American Academy of Family Physicians. News release, American Academy of Family Physicians.

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