Several years ago, in the late 1990s, I remember watching an HBO special where a comedian made the comment “a man can have a foot growing in his stomach and he still will not go to the hospital.” At the time, the audience, like myself, laughed at the comment. Fast forward more than a decade later, the genuinely funny remark contained an underlying serious message. In their recent health survey, Esquire Magazine conducted a poll of more than 500 men ages 18-60 (not an exhaustive study by any means, but nonetheless exclusive) from various races, (14 percent were African-American, 10 percent Latino and 5 percent Asian) educational backgrounds and socioeconomic groups. The study resulted in one definitive conclusion — too many men are not taking adequate care of themselves.
Among some of the more alarming findings:
- 40 percent of men in their 40s have never had their cholesterol tested and 70 percent have never had a prostate exam
- 75 percent of men say they experience illness at least once a year
- 45 percent do not have a regular doctor
- Almost 4 in10 men say that they could lose 20 pounds or more
- 57 percent of men stated that they eat fast food at least three times a week
- 20 percent were treated for sexually transmitted diseases
- 43 percent of men stated that they live a largely sedentary lifestyle
- 20 percent of men stated that they never exercise
One section of the study, entitled “The Young Man,” queried men 18-29 years of age, many of whom were college students or young professionals. The survey revealed that many men under 30:
- Do not have a regular doctor
- frequently consume more than 20 cigarettes per day, if they smoke at all
- Have more trouble keeping themselves “regular” than their fathers and grandfathers
- Are much more likely to engage in risky or unprotected sex
Moreover, a significant number of men of all ages suffered from acute high blood pressure, sleeping difficulties, anxiety or depression. While these statistics are alarming, I cannot say that I am all that surprised. In fact, I have known a number of men (including some of my colleagues) who have told me that they refuse to allow any individual (including physicians) to “invade their privacy” in such a manner. Wow! I thought. Getting regular health check ups is synonymous with an “invasion of privacy”? Their comments have frequently left me dumbfounded.
I would argue that a major reason so many human beings with the Y chromosome refuse to address their health issues is due to the fact that society always has expected men to be impervious. There has been this long held alpha male mindset that a “real man” can confront almost any challenge or obstacle without assistance. Only “wimpy men” resort to seeking out the aid of others.
This “dude whatever, I do not need any help, I’m all right, just leave me alone” attitude has led to a stark reality. Men are falling behind women in virtually every category — academics, career prospects, life expectancy etc. There is no doubt that some of these disparities are health related and can often be prevented or at least mitigated to some degree.
Anyone who equates being treated regularly by a primary physician to prevent potential health issues as being synonymous to having their privacy invaded has a dangerously myopic and misguided view of themselves. Any reasonable human being should be concerned about their physical and mental well being. No one is suggesting that men (or women for that matter) become hypochondriacs , rushing to the emergency room at the first sign of any ache, pain or headache. But it is nonetheless important that more men become aggressive in addressing their health issues and be more willing to submit to periodic health checks, especially once they reach middle age. The terms SOUND, MIND and BODY ring true more than ever. Our lives could depend on it. Literally.