Macho men fare poor in healthcare

 The idea that ‘real men’ don’t fall sick and don’t need to see the doctor is actually causing men to get sick.

It may also take a toll on their health. Men who strongly endorsed old-school notions of masculinity — believing the ideal man is the strong, silent type who doesn’t complain about pain — were only half as likely as other men to seek preventive healthcare services, like an annual physical or a flu shot, the study found.

Even men with a high level of education, a factor that is strongly associated with better health and usually a predictor of longer life, were less likely to seek out preventive healthcare if they strongly adhered to the ideal of the macho man, said Kristen W Springer, the study’s primary investigator and an assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

“It’s ironic that the belief in the John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone archetype of masculinity — and the idea that real men don’t get sick and don’t need to see the doctor, and that real men aren’t vulnerable — is actually causing men to get sick,” Dr Springer said. “These stereotypes and ideas are actually a reason why men do get sick.”

Interestingly, the men who held strong beliefs in old-fashioned masculinity but who worked in blue-collar, stereotypically male jobs — like truck drivers or construction workers — were more likely to seek preventive care. One reason may be because the possibility of not being able to work was a greater threat to their masculinity than seeking help, she said.

The study may help explain why there is still a gender longevity gap, with women outliving men by about five years on average, Dr Springer said. She added that the real surprise was that the health benefits usually associated with higher education were completely undermined by strongly held macho ideals.

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