Out of Touch: American Men and the Health Care System

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New research based on a survey supported by The Commonwealth Fund shows that an alarming portion of American men fail to get the medical care they need to stay in good health. A significant number of men do not get routine checkups, preventive care, or health counseling, and many ignore symptoms or delay seeking medical attention when sick or in pain.

Out of Touch: American Men and the Health Care System, authored by Fund staff David Sandman, Elisabeth Simantov, and Christina An, presents a current picture of men's access to health care, experiences getting care, and health-related behaviors. The survey finds that many men lack regular contact with the health care system. Three times as many men as women had not seen a doctor in the previous year. One of three men had no regular doctor, compared with one of five women.

Men's irregular connection to the health care system means they often go without preventive care. More than half of all men had not had a physical exam or a blood cholesterol test in the previous year. Among men age 50 or older, 60 percent had not been screened for colon cancer and 41 percent had not been tested for prostate cancer in the year prior to the survey.

One of four men reported he would wait as long as possible before seeking help if he were concerned about his health, the survey showed. Nearly 40 percent would delay care a few days, and 17 percent would wait at least one week. Only 18 percent of men said they would seek care or medical advice as soon as possible.

Lack of health insurance and gaps in coverage also contribute to men's infrequent contact with doctors, with low-income men the most affected. Three of five men living on incomes of $16,000 or less had been uninsured at some time during 1998. Uninsured men were at least three times as likely as insured men not to have gotten care when needed, filled a prescription because of the cost, or seen a specialist.

Race and ethnicity also play a role in men's health. Hispanics, for instance, were twice as likely as other men not to have seen a physician in the past year. Among men ages 18 to 64, one of three blacks was diagnosed with at least one of five chronic conditions, compared with one of four whites and one of five Hispanics.

Facts and Figures

  • Three times as many men as women had not seen a doctor in the previous year (24% vs. 8%). One of three men had no regular doctor, compared with one of five women (33% vs. 19%).
  • Uninsured men were at least three times as likely as insured men not to have gotten care when needed, filled a prescription because of the cost, or seen a specialist (28% vs. 9%).
  • Among men age 50 and older, 60 percent had not been screened for colon cancer and 41 percent had not been tested for prostate cancer in the year prior to the survey.
  • Working-age Hispanic men were twice as likely as white or black men not to have seen a physician in the past year: 45 percent of Hispanics did not go to a doctor, compared with 22 percent of black men and 25 percent of white men.

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Publication Details

Publication Date: March 1, 2000
Authors: David Sandman, Elisabeth Simantov, and Christina An
Citation:

Out of Touch: American Men and the Health Care System, David Sandman, Elisabeth Simantov, and Christina An, The Commonwealth Fund, March 2000

Related Topics
Vulnerable Populations

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