Men's health: Be aware, and don´t avoid!

Studies confirm time and again that men tend to avoid visits to their physicians more often than women. Why is that?

What you should know about men's healthcare attitudes:

Number of doctor-patient interactions: Women take the lead

The fact that men shy away from visiting the doctor has been proven repeatedly. For example, the German KKH (In German: Kaufmännische Krankenkasse or Commercial Health Insurance), one of the largest nationwide statutory health insurers, came to the following conclusion: In 2021, 94% of women insured in the KKH sought outpatient medical care from general practitioners or specialists, compared to only 87% of men. Similarly, the frequency of physician visits differs according to gender: Women sought medical advice an average of ten times last year, while men did so only six times.2

A study commissioned by the Federal Centre for Health Education (German acronym: BZgA) also provided interesting facts on medical care and early detection among men: only 40% of male citizens regularly attend cancer screening examinations from the age of 35. Among women aged 20 and over, on the other hand, the figure was as high as 67%. Although the number of those who take more care of their health increases with age, the gender gap remains: Among those aged 60-69, 59% of men and 76% of women take advantage of preventive measures.1

And this is despite the fact that men sometimes face more health risks than women. According to the information sheet "Facts and Figures on Men's Health in Germany 2022" by the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA)1, male citizens suffer more often from obesity and diabetes mellitus, are more prone to nicotine abuse, and have a greater risk of cancer diagnoses. In addition, the risk of suffering cardiovascular diseases or even dying from chronic ischaemic heart disease or a heart attack is also higher.1

Causes: shame, avoidance, and then some

But why do men participate less often in preventive measures and check-ups and have less contact with physicians? Unfortunately, there is no concrete answer to this question, but there are several theories: these range from the comfort of avoiding non-urgent appointments3,4 and shame (e.g. in the case of erectile dysfunction or psychological problems)3,5 to fear of receiving a serious diagnosis.6 The latter can be avoided by visiting the physician for preventive and routine check-ups. But avoiding routine check ups that could allow early intervention of any threatening conditions is a paradoxical way of thinking that is quite common among men.6 

Similarly, it is assumed that men, in contrast to women, are less concerned about their well-being; the data collected by the BZgA on interest in one's own health at least point to this: Only 33% of the men surveyed agreed with the statement "I want to know everything about my health", whereas among women it was 40%.1

Another reason could be that the traditional role model of the strong man, who can withstand adverse situations and is always healthy, is not as outdated as is assumed. Illness or a visit to the physician is therefore associated with weakness.7 Men are also said to have less communication skills; this leads to them preferring to sort out problems by themselves instead of seeking (medical) advice.8

Despite all this, the reason for the gender gap should not only be sought in the male psyche: younger women in particular, for example, seek medical contact not only for illnesses and preventive examinations, but also for contraceptive advice and prenatal care.2

Optimising men's health: The psychologist in you is needed!

But how can male medical care be improved? There are different approaches to this: On the one hand, an appeal to the sense of family of the person concerned can help:6 For example, the patient should be asked to think of his children, who most certainly want him to be fit and healthy for as long as possible; and therefore, preventive measures and the early detection of diseases are particularly important. This could serve as a motivation for prevention.

Perhaps more telemedicine services could also be useful; this is especially true in situations when there is fear of contact due to illness or health problems that many men may find embarrassing, keeping them away from the physicians's office. For example, an evaluation of an online urology platform for the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED) showed that 36% of respondents had never previously consulted a GP or urologist about their symptoms due to shame and discretion issues.4

Furthermore, the competitive spirit of many men should not be forgotten; this could be harnessed, for example, by recommending health apps to track daily step counts, calorie intake, heart rate, etc.8 in order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Conclusion for medical practice

While neither men nor women need to seek medical consultation for every minor issue, regular preventive measures, screening, and early diagnosis and treatment are essential for maintaining a good quality of life. Tailor-made campaigns and self-care ideas that focus more on the male psyche could help to achieve gender parity in medical and preventive care and thus increase men's health.

  1. Info-Blatt: Daten und Fakten zur Männergesundheit in Deutschland. Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung (BZgA); 2022. In German only:; Stand: 2022
  2. Arztbesuche: Männer holen auf. 2022. In German only:; Stand: 01.11.2022
  3. Berentzen M. Das sind die fünf häufigsten Gründe, warum Männer nicht zum Arzt gehen. 2021. In German only:; Stand: 01.11.2022
  4. Rodler S, von Büren J, Buchner A, Stief C, Elkhanova K, Wülfing C, Jungmann S. Epidemiology and Treatment Barriers of Patients With Erectile Dysfunction Using an Online Prescription Platform: A Cross-Sectional Study. Sex Med. 2020 Sep;8(3):370-377. doi: 10.1016/j.esxm.2020.04.001. Epub 2020 May 17. PMID: 32434669; PMCID: PMC7471089.
  5. Weißbach L, Stiehler M. Männergesundheitsbericht 2013: Psychische Gesundheit. Hans Huber; 2013. In German only:; Stand: 2022
  6. Preuk M. Rollenbild wird ihnen zum Verhängnis: Warum Männer zu selten zum Arzt gehen. 2018. In German only:; Stand: 01.11.2022
  7. Weißbach L. Erster Deutscher Männergesundheitsbericht. Zuckschwerdt; 2010. In German only:; Stand: 2022
  8. Knoke M. Gesundheitsverhalten: Warum Männer den Arzt scheuen. 2017. In German only:; Stand: 01.11.2022