Why Don’t Men Talk About Their Health? (Part VIII)

By | July 11, 2019

It’s no secret that I am absolutely nuts about men’s health. One way I spend my time is reading and summarizing different research studies about the topic. A lot of these studies look at disparities in men’s health, but I am interested in why they exist in the first place.

A few weeks back, I decided to poll my social media followers with a simple question—“Why don’t men discuss their health?” I was amazed by all the different responses. So far, we’ve explored Response 1 (“Men aren’t told to check themselves at doctor’s appointments”), Response 2 (“It’s awkward to talk to my mom about it”), Response 3 (“Talking about your health isn’t ‘masculine/manly/macho’”), Response 4 (“There is no Susan G. Komen for men.”),  Response 5 (“Men think they are invincible.”), Response 6 (“Men keep it light out of fear and/or embarrassment.”), and Response 7 (“Social norms and stigmas tell us not to talk openly about our health.”).

Today is the final response—but not the final post in the series. Stay tuned for one more!

Response #8: “Being sick is seen as a sign of weakness.”

In addition to numerous responses with this exact phrasing, others responded in a similar fashion:

  • “We are conditioned to believe it’s a sign of weakness.”
  • “Just like discussing feelings, I think many consider it [a form of] weakness.”

On one hand, I can attest that being sick can result in physical feelings of weakness. When I was going through chemotherapy for testicular cancer, I didn’t even have enough strength to get up and walk around my bedroom.

After facing cancer, I realized something. Prior to that 2016 diagnosis, I avoided going to the doctor even for something as minor as a sinus infection. As a result I’d be in bed for days on end, whining in misery, and sleeping hours upon hours.

Nowadays, I get myself to the doctor as soon as cold and flu symptoms start. This allows me to reduce the days of challenging my inner Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or even avoid them entirely.

But I have a feeling the word ‘weak’ in those responses didn’t mean in the physical sense.

Admitting you have a problem or something isn’t quite right is a challenge. I won’t deny that. However, we only make it harder on ourselves—and our fellow men—by not speaking up when something isn’t right with our health.

While a sinus infection is a smaller-scale event, other health conditions can be a much bigger deal if left unchecked under a guise of not wanting to feel weak. If caught early, many cases of testicular and prostate cancer will result in no further treatment beyond surgery. While that will lay you up for a week or so, other treatments, such as chemotherapy, can have a much longer-lasting effect.

I propose a change to the narrative. Who said we have to hide our problems and illnesses? Who decided it makes us ‘weak’?

I don’t see it as weak to admit that something is wrong with your health.

If anything, it could be argued that it’s weaker to hide that fact, but I’m not one to shame others.

Instead, I want to empower men to discuss their health openly. The next time you have something you’re worried about concerning your health, share it with a male colleague or friend. Be a listening ear for him when (and not if) he comes to that point. As has become a major running theme of this series, change starts with us.

Breaking stereotypes is hard, but it’s truly what makes us strong.

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