While many women are known to encourage their spouse/significant other to get their health checked annually, a surprising number of them are unlikely to first share their health concerns with their partner. In fact, 86 percent of those with live-in partners agree that it is important to discuss health concerns with their partner, but only 15 percent of Americans first share their health changes with him or her.
That was among the more interesting findings from a recent Cleveland Clinic survey(1) conducted as part of our third annual MENtion It® campaign, which aims to address the fact that men often do not “MENtion” health issues or take steps to prevent them. This year, women were surveyed for the first time, too; since they are often the health decision-makers in the family, their point of view is critical in better understanding – and improving – communications and action involving health, especially for the men in their life.
While men often need a bit of nudging (or nagging) to take proper care of themselves, women – generally – are much more proactive. And, by default, they often become the protectors of the men in their life. While this was always a hunch I had, this year’s data proved it: 83 percent of women with live-in partners say they encourage their spouse/significant other to get their health checked annually. Despite their best efforts, 30 percent of men say they don’t do so because they believe they are “healthy.”
My response to them is … let me (or others in my profession) decide if you’re healthy.
That said, perhaps we – as physicians – need to do more to make men feel more welcome in the examination room. More than half (56 percent) of men prefer to keep their health concerns to themselves and not share them with anyone.
Frustratingly, this “culture of quiet” can lead to some troubling consequences.
For instance, by ignoring sexual health conditions like erectile dysfunction (ED), many men are increasing their chances of suffering from other health conditions. Several studies have found that men who have had ED at some point in their lives also pose a greater risk of developing heart disease.
As a urologist with clinical interests in cancers of the prostate, testis, and kidney, I have treated all-too-many men who are blasé about such common practices as getting annual physicals or taking other health-related precautions.
Many cancers, heart conditions, and other diseases can be detected and treated much earlier because prudent individuals are aware of their personal risks and attentive to getting regular check-ups and care.
In general, women tend to understand that. Men? Not so much.
But I feel that with MENtion It and other measures, we can start to get more men on the communications bandwagon, too. And that is a positive development, for them and those who care about them.
(1) Two online surveys were conducted among a total of approximately 2,000 U.S. Americans 18 years or older living in the continental United States. The surveys were conducted between April 10 and May 7, 2018 and were weighted to be nationally representative based on age, gender, ethnicity and education. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
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