There is a widening gap between men and women. It has nothing to do with pay scales or legal rights. A just-released British study, echoed by other scientific literature, shows men are less likely to see a doctor regarding health concerns. Given correlation between early detection and survival rates, this medical gap can prove deadly.
Society is partly to blame. Traditionally, men are supposed to be “strong” and “resilient.” Image of man as warrior and provider pervade much of Western culture. Brought up on super heroes and tough-as-nails movie stars, men of all ages feel they should be able to withstand unreasonable amounts of pain. Men often grit their teeth against injuries requiring medical assistance to avoid being seen as “weak.”
Because many wish to reinforce the image of the “Macho” Man, deadly cancers go undetected until it’s too late.
There is, however, hope in reversing this trend. Popular culture figures most responsible for reinforcing “tough guy” images can set an example. Samuel L. Jackson, perhaps the toughest of Hollywood tough men, is now spokesperson for the Take One for the Boys. This campaign urges regular doctor visits for men and advocates for early cancer detection. Angelina Jolie’s recent disclosure of her preventative double-mastectomy has led to increases in health calls for women. Perhaps a celebrity voice strong as Sam Jackson’s can lead to much the same in men.
Experts point to other factors keeping men away from doctors. Cultural stereotypes see the woman taking her kids to the pediatrician. Waiting rooms often flourish with women’s interest magazines. Perhaps change on an institutional level—more sporting magazines in the waiting room, for example—can increase the number of men’s doctor visits.
Called by Hollywood or beckoned by better reading materials, one fact remains: men must make a more concerted effort in regards to their health. Even in our age of advanced medical technology, early detection is the leading factor toward disease survival rates. Men must go to the doctor of their own volition, or the Macho Man as we know it will truly become extinct.