Early Intervention Matters: The Value of Preventative Care for Men’s Health
‘It’ll get better on its own’ is a common perception amongst men regarding their health2. Hence, many men are known to put off getting medical care until they are really ill, endangering their general health and well-being. This tendency can be due to a number of factors. According to the Western Cape Government, healthcare professionals are able to treat and prevent illnesses if they are detected early.
Socialisation and masculinity ideologies which put pressure on men to be tough and independent are some of the main reasons they put off getting medical and preventative care4. From an early age, men are frequently conditioned to repress their emotions and avoid displaying vulnerability as this is considered out of character with the male identity1. The impression that seeking medical help or acknowledging health issues is regarded as a sign of weakness or failure is a result of the socialisation process. Therefore, men often put societal standards before their personal needs leading to detrimental consequences for their health4.
One of the other common reasons for people to not get medical care, especially in rural areas, is living too far from a primary healthcare provider7. It might be difficult for them to travel considerable distances to a primary healthcare practitioner because it frequently necessitates significant time commitments, transportation arrangements, and even financial costs. Hence, despite most men disregarding their health, those from rural areas do so more often.
By neglecting preventative care, men miss out on opportunities for early intervention and disease prevention. The identification of risk factors, the monitoring of vital signs, and the screening for diseases including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and different types of cancer can all be aided by routine check-ups. Early detection of these health problems increases the likelihood of successful treatment and lessens the overall strain on the healthcare system5.
Men have the chance to treat mental health issues with preventative care, too. Statistics show that in 2019, South Africa had a total of 13 774 suicides, of which 10 861 were men3. Men generally take more time to seek mental health services, and commonly resort to alcohol as a coping strategy3. Even though males may experience particular difficulties in seeking emotional help, routine check-ups offer a secure setting for talking about and managing stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. Men who disregard their mental health not only jeopardise their quality of life, but also help to worsen the problem of untreated mental health disorders in society as a whole.
Men’s mental health can also be significantly impacted by experiences related to gender based violence (GBV). By prioritizing mental health, a culture of care and support can be created, effectively tackling GBV and fostering healthier relationships for all. Mental health services should be made a priority at rural clinics. Accessing mental health care in rural areas can be difficult due to a lack of resources, a shortage of qualified experts, and social stigma6.
To combat the ill health many men face, significant changes must be made. These changes may include addressing social stigma towards men in which they are viewed as weak when they are not well or seek medical attention. Changing the perception that illness will get better on its own may also make men less reluctant to prioritise their health. In continuing these perceptions within society, an unhealthily generational approach towards male healthcare will persist. Furthermore, to better address the health needs for people in rural areas, quality primary health care (found in clinics) should be advocated for, including mental health services. This will enable access to basic health services and early detection of illness for all South Africans.
- Dekin S. Men and Emotions: The Importance of Becoming Vulnerable [Internet]. Mission Harbor Behavioral Health. 2020 [cited 2023 Jun 22]. Available from: https://sbtreatment.com/blog/men-and-emotions-the-importance-of-becoming-vulnerable/
- Jubb J. ‘It’ll get better on its own’: men and their resistance to seeing a doctor [Internet]. The Health Policy Partnership. 2022 [cited 2023 Jun 22]. Available from: https://www.healthpolicypartnership.com/itll-get-better-on-its-own-men-and-their-resistance-to-seeing-a-doctor/
- Ngwenya MW, Sumbane GO. The Urgency of Access to Men-Centered Mental Healthcare Services to Address Men’s Sensitive Issues in the Communities of South Africa | IntechOpen [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jun 22]. Available from: https://www.intechopen.com/online-first/84694
- Novak JR, Peak T, Gast J, Arnell M. Associations Between Masculine Norms and Health-Care Utilization in Highly Religious, Heterosexual Men. Am J Mens Health. 2019 Jun 11;13(3):1557988319856739.
- Razzak, M.I., Imran, M. and Xu, G., 2020. Big data analytics for preventive medicine. Neural Computing and Applications, 32, pp.4417-4451.
- Smalley KB, Yancey CT, Warren JC, Naufel K, Ryan R, Pugh JL. Rural mental health and psychological treatment: a review for practitioners. J Clin Psychol. 2010 May;66(5):479–89.
- Syed, S.T., Gerber, B.S. and Sharp, L.K., 2013. Traveling towards disease: transportation barriers to health care access. Journal of community health, 38, pp.976-993.