My role


Do male GPs put men off seeking help?

Recent research in the British Journal of Health Psychology shows how complicated male thinking is when it comes to their own health and why this sort of attitudinal research is so important.

The study of 20 men with prostate cancer symptoms looked at the reasons men delay going to the doctor. Dr Susan Hale, who led the study, said: 'The findings of this study suggest that, far from ignoring symptoms or being uncaring about their health, men are extremely anxious. Fears about the effects of illness and treatment emerged as major influences on their eventual decisions to seek help. Men tended to consult their GPs when it was no longer possible to hide symptoms from others'.

The big problem with this approach is that by the time it is no longer possible to hide symptoms, it might also be too late to do much about them. The results can be fatal. Prostate cancer is now the most common male cancer and 50-60% of patients are diagnosed in the late stages of the disease.

All 20 men were interviewed in detail about their reluctance to seek help. Although the pressure to live up to a macho image whereby 'real men' ignored health problems was commonly mentioned, that wasn't the main issue.

In fact, the possibility of having cancer caused 'considerable anxiety' amongst the men which they tried to reduce by avoiding health information or minimising the seriousness of symptoms by seeing them as 'normal' for men.

Two key reasons given for not going to the doctor were:

  • worries about intimate examinations as a threat to the male image, and
  • a concern to appear strong, independent and in control in front of a male GP. (Male GPs were frequently seen as having negative attitudes towards male patients.)

The full article is available to download below.

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Page created on July 23rd, 2007

Page updated on December 1st, 2009