Men Think They're Too Tough and Manly for Doctors, So It's No Wonder They Die First
Hey, men: Ever wonder why your life expectancy is shorter than women's? It could be because you're too busy chugging whiskey, chopping firewood and doing other tough man stuff to go to the goddamn doctor.
Men who subscribe to traditional notions of masculinity are less likely to go to the doctor. They're more likely to downplay their symptoms. They also tend to experience worse overall health than people who don't hold those beliefs, according to new research.
Tradition-bound dudes are also more likely to choose male doctors — but they're less likely to open up to them about health issues than they are with female doctors.
Psychologists at Rutgers University say their findings could help explain why men tend to die earlier than women.
"Men can expect to die five years earlier than women, and physiological differences don't explain that difference," Diana Sanchez, associate professor of psychology at Rutgers' School of Arts, said in a press release.
The psychologists have published two studies: one in Preventive Medicine, the other in the Journal of Health Psychology. Both shed light on the disturbing link between antiquated gender norms and human health.
How they figured it out: In the Preventive Medicine study, approximately 250 men completed a questionnaire gauging their attitudes toward manhood and traditional "male" and "female" behavior, as well as their preference for male or female doctors.
Men who scored higher on the "masculinity scale" tended to opt for male doctors, the researchers found.
In the second portion of the study, the researchers asked 250 male college students to fill out a similar masculinity questionnaire. Then, they had them meet with premed and nursing students in clinical exam rooms.
When meeting with male interviewers, the test subjects who ranked higher on the masculinity scale were less likely to "discuss their symptoms frankly."
"That's because they don't want to show weakness or dependence to another man, including a male doctor," Sanchez said in the release.
They're less likely to go to the doctor: For their study in the Journal of Health Psychology, the researchers interviewed close to 500 men and women — both college students and people from the general population.
Men with traditional beliefs about masculinity — who felt they should be tough, brave and self-reliant — were "less likely to seek medical help, more likely to minimize their symptoms and suffered worse health outcomes than women and men who didn't share those opinions," according to the release.
Women who believed they should act brave and self-reliant also sought less treatment — but, according to researcher Mary Himmelstein, "it's worse for men."
"Men have a cultural script that tells them they should be brave, self-reliant and tough," she said in the release. "Women don't have that script, so there isn't any cultural message telling them that, to be real women, they should not make too much of illnesses and symptoms."
The lesson here? Dudes, go to the doctor before your toxic masculinity kills you — literally.