It’s well known some men have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the doctor’s surgery, but psychologists have discovered that once they get there, they’re not upfront about their health.

Researchers from Rutgers University in the US devised 3 studies with 550 men to untangle the links between masculinity, doctor gender preference and symptom reporting.

“The question we wanted to answer was, why do men die earlier than women?” says senior author Diana Sanchez, an associate professor of psychology.

“Men can expect to die 5 years earlier than women, and physiological differences don’t explain that difference.”

In the first 2 studies, around 250 men filled out questionnaires designed to elicit their views on masculinity, the relative attributes of men and women, and doctor preference.

The more stereotypically masculine a participant was, the more likely it was that he’d prefer a male doctor, the survey showed.

The next study involved over 250 male students who filled out the same questionnaire but also completed a survey on 5 chronic and potentially embarrassing symptoms (diarrhoea, wind, acne, anxiety and depression).

They were then interviewed in a clinical setting by either a man or a woman in white lab coat about their symptoms.

The men reported fewer symptoms to the male than the female interviewer. And participants who had high masculinity scores were least likely to be frank about their health.

Putting all this together, the psychologists conclude that “masculinity may affect men’s health by encouraging choice of a male doctor, with whom doctor-patient communication may be impaired”.

The findings suggest conventional attributes of masculinity such as self-reliance and toughness might actually be dangerous to one’s health.

Hugo Wilcken 30 March 2016

Last Reviewed: 30/03/2016



Masculinity in the doctor’s office: masculinity, gendered doctor preference and doctor-patient communication