why won't men go to the doctor
Health Topics

Man up and go to the doctor


February 1, 2017

Regular checkups help keep you healthy, so why won’t so many men go to the doctor?

We men are skipping out on seeing a doctor. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reports that men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the last year. That means we aren’t getting preventive tests that could indicate or predict serious illnesses or life-threatening conditions.

“A lot of men don’t go to the doctor at all and have a very loose, if any, relationship with a primary-care provider until they are older and start getting into the heart disease age,” says Douglas Milam, M.D., associate professor of urologic surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“By and large, until they start getting serious medical problems,” he adds, “most men don’t have much serious cause to interact with healthcare professionals, and that carries on too far.” Major health risks for men, like heart disease, colon cancer and prostate cancer can be caught early and treated, reports the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Why is a primary-care provider important?

Setting up a relationship with a primary-care provider will help you get on a schedule for routine preventive screenings and vaccines. We’ve compiled a checklist based on age. A primary-care provider can also help you navigate making better choices if you’re currently overweight or engaging in risky lifestyle behaviors like smoking or abusing alcohol.

Why are women more likely to go to the doc?

“Women, by comparison, get annual Pap smears,” Milam explains. They often want birth control prescriptions, as well, and therefore seek medical care in early adulthood more often than men. Whether they have a relationship with a gynecologist who then introduces them to a primary-care provider or the reverse happens, women get on track with regular visits.

Women also encourage their spouses to go to the doctor. A CDC study shows married men are more likely to have had a healthcare visit within the last year than non-married men or men who are cohabiting.

“I think spouses are hugely important,” Milam says. “I can think about that in my own personal situation. My wife tells me, ‘Isn’t it time for you to get your colonoscopy?’ I think that women in general are better at spontaneously consuming medical care than men are.”

It’s important to have a primary-care provider to oversee all of your healthcare needs. Click here to see the locations and options available for Vanderbilt Primary Care.