The topic of mortality is not a common dinner discussion, even with copious amounts of wine present, but it does play a significant role in the way we live. For example, knowing the average life expectancy for a man within the United States is 78.7 years means that one can, at least in theory, plan ahead for common to-dos, like taking that dream vacation, finally getting to comfortably retire, or accomplishing another once-in-a-lifetime experience. While not set in stone, understanding average life expectancy is vital.
Although no can say with complete certainty how full or long a life will be, statistics highlight a disparity between men and women as it relates to longevity. Women, on average, can expect to live five years longer than men, although little research exists to help explain why. One recent study on the healthcare variances between men and women sheds some necessary light on why men can plan for a shorter life.
Male Attitudes and Preferences in Healthcare
The Journal of Health and Social Behavior published research that intended to find a link between longevity, medical preferences, and social class. Within the study, data revealed that men with strong beliefs in traditional masculinity norms, such as the need to be a provider and show little to no weakness in social or private settings, tend to be half as willing as men with moderate to slight masculinity beliefs to engage in preventative healthcare.
This means no annual checkups, no primary care physician, and no routine testing to ensure all is well in their individual world of well-being.
Masculine beliefs are strongly correlated to climbing the ladder of status and respect among peers, at least in theory. Centuries-long cultural narratives helped shape this school of thought among the majority of men. And although these scripts have begun a slow breakdown across multiple cultures and settings, the need to present a strongpersonal front remains intact for a number of men. Unfortunately, deep connection with masculine themes does little for an individual’s health in either the short or long term.
Why it Matters
One of the downsides in strong masculine beliefs, as it relates to healthcare, boils down to communication with a primary care physician. In a related study, it was found that men who hold tight to the idea that strength is a necessary component of masculinity not only delay routine medical care but also find it difficult to be open and honest when a doctor’s appointment is eventually made. In these instances, men have a tendency to share important details of symptoms and concerns with female providers more easily than they do with other men, at the risk of decreasing their perceived status based on strength and self-reliance among their peers.
These tendencies have a devastating impact on the patient-provider relationship. A representative from a medical solicitors firm in the UK explains that medical claims have a higher likelihood of occurring when miscommunication is inevitable. Being unwilling to share details of medical history or current warning signs of poor health leads to an inability to treat conditions in an effective, safe way. Complications are inevitable when individuals withhold information, ultimately resulting in life-altering outcomes that could have been prevented with the right care.
Although healthcare preferences and general attitudes among men are not the only issues plaguing men’s health, these commonalities may be a significant factor in the longevity gap experienced between men and women. In order to reduce the risks associated with prolonging necessary medical advice or attention, men should start by finding a professional they can easily trust and with whom they feel comfortable. Tap into available resources online or ask for referrals from close friends or family, and then establish a routine of getting the medical guidance you need. Getting into the habit of regular healthcare visits may be not a predisposition for most men, but doing so has the potential to enhance overall well-being and ultimately, your true strength.