My role


Men neglecting long-term health symptoms

Fear of visiting a doctor could be putting the health of more than 3.5 million men in the UK at risk.

According to a survey by MHF in association with Royal Mail, one in ten men admits to avoiding seeking help from a health professional because they are scared it might end in a hospital visit. An additional 10% would rather stick their head in the sand to avoid the embarrassment of discussing their health issues with a doctor.

The research, conducted for the start of National Men's Health Week suggests that men are ignoring the underlying symptoms of the most common long-term health conditions.

Among those surveyed,

  • almost three-quarters didn't feel it necessary to visit their doctor for unexplained fatigue;
  • two-thirds would not seek advice about persistent wheezing and
  • more than half wouldn't have unintentional weight loss checked out.

These symptoms are all potentially indicative of more serious, disabling illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes and cancer.

In addition, the research shows:

  • 41% claim they needn't see a doctor for palpitations
  • Half wouldn't schedule a visit if they had swollen glands
  • Around a fifth wouldn't get an appointment for difficulty or pain passing water or the need to visit the lavatory more regularly
  • Nearly half see no need for action if experiencing increased thirstiness

And of those men who do have ongoing health issues (a quarter of those surveyed), 42% claim the NHS services they rely on need to perform better, with 16% claiming they are not very good, or even poor.

Dr Ian Banks, President of Men's Health Forum said: 'This research supports the day-to-day experience of many health professionals that men in particular, for any number of reasons, tend to delay seeking medical help after the development of symptoms. In the case of 3% of the men we surveyed — representative of nearly three-quarters of a million men nationwide - they don't turn to anyone at all unless they view the problem as an emergency.

'If men were encouraged to take control and present for treatment earlier, they would avoid the inevitable health time bomb they currently face. Delaying treatment and ignoring symptoms allows serious conditions to develop and increases the likelihood of an emergency trip to A&E.'

'It is also widely believed that once diagnosed with a long-term health condition, male patients tend to find self-care more difficult and in general are less likely to manage their condition effectively. Through National Men's Health Week, we aim to push health services to deliver advice and treatment in ways more likely to engage men, encouraging them to make better use of services as soon as a problem arises."

Backed by over 30 other organisations, this year's National Men's Health Week aims to develop effective ways of reaching men with long-term health conditions and encouraging them to get the necessary health advice and treatment.

Dr Steve Boorman, Chief Medical Advisor of the Royal Mail, which supports National Men's Health Week and co-commissioned the research, said it made sense for employers to be proactive over health. 'With 85% of our workforce being male, it is right for us to be highlighting the importance of taking their health care more seriously. We offer staff a very broad range of support such as a Help Line, Occupational Health, Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Services to help our employees help themselves.'

Policy Paper

The MHF is releasing a policy paper for the week calling for health service providers to set targets in respect of individual long-term health conditions within the terms of the Equality Act 2006. The Act places a new statutory duty, the Gender Equality Duty, on all public bodies, requiring the equality of opportunity for men and women in the provision of services as well as services that are tailored to the specific needs of both sexes. The paper can be downloaded below.

Mini Manuals

To coincide with the Week, a new series of 'mini' manuals has been produced in the style of the classic Haynes car maintenance manuals by the Men's Health Forum. They offer men detailed information on a broad range of long-term health conditions and include tips on making better use of the NHS.

Related Files

Page created on June 11th, 2007

Page updated on December 1st, 2009