Discussing problems seen as a sign of weakness for men

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2012, 10:14am

According to the annual report by the Movember Foundation, men worldwide live shorter lives than women and suffer more from heart disease and cancer. Health risk factors are also more common among men, including smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity, suicide, and work and road accidents.

In spite of this, men access health services less frequently than women and when they do visit the doctor, they typically present late, thereby denying themselves the chance of early detection and effective treatment of common diseases.

In the Health Post survey, we asked some respondents for their opinion on why men seem to care less or talk less about their health than women. Here are some of the replies. (Some respondents wished to remain anonymous while others would give only their first name.)

  • Men don't realise how important maintaining health is. Most consider fitness to be the same as health. In general, they don't consider the health of organs, blood, circulation and the mind to be part of fitness.

As they haven't been brought up to consider health in this way, they limit their talking to fitness issues: muscles, endurance, strength, etc. If they were brought up to speak about or consider the effect of food, stress, work, environment, they would speak about it as a matter of course.

Anonymous, 46, works in education

  • In my opinion, I don't think it is that they don't care. It is more a poor level of understanding and awareness to health risks.

Malcolm Leigh, 37, sales

  • It's embarrassing to discuss personal issues, especially when related to sexual matters.

Justin Choo, 34, veterinarian

  • That is an Anglo-saxon male mentality. Latin males and Latin culture care a lot about their health, the same as Latin women do. The same might be said for some Asian cultures: for example the Koreans are, on the whole, very health-minded people.

Andrea Cassandro, 30, senior manager

  • Personally, acknowledging the symptoms in the beginning is the hardest part - it's easier to just ignore it and hope it goes away. And there is an unwillingness to be seen as a hypochondriac, wasting a GP's time.

Christopher Smith, 24, airline pilot

  • Men are more private than women. Men tend to have a few strong relationships with other men, but are not willing to talk about health issues with them. Men see illness as a weakness they do not want to share with others.

John Hamilton, 43, IT manager

  • Women have menstrual cycles, deliver babies, nurse those babies and take care of those around them. Because of this, they have always counted on each other to give advice in these areas as well as others.

There has always been a built-in network - mothers, sisters, girlfriends - where they can bounce off any health questions they may have, openly seeking advice.

Andrew, 49, banker

  • I think women are better at communicating through dialogue, discussing emotions, choices and problems; whereas males are more action-oriented, where the goal of communication is more to achieve something, rather than discuss their own personal issues with others.

Paddy Kirkland, 25, teacher

  • Men seem to keep these things private. I had a non-benign prostate problem 15 years ago and talked freely about it.

As a result, a few years later two of my work colleagues approached me for a chat since they were having problems in that area.

I packed them off to their doctors and as it turned out both had a benign problem. With early detection, they were both treated and came back to work. The big message to men is: talk about it.

John, 63, pilot