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Many Manly Men Avoid Needed Health Care

April 28, 2016     By Alan Mozes     HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 28, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Macho men are less likely than women to visit a doctor, and more likely to request male physicians when they do make an appointment, researchers say.

But these “tough guys” tend to downplay their symptoms in front of male doctors because of a perceived need to keep up a strong front when interacting with men, according to three recent studies.

The results can be dangerous.

“These studies highlight one theory about why masculinity is, generally, linked to poor health outcomes for men,” said Mary Himmelstein. She is co-author of three recent studies on gender and medicine and a doctoral candidate in the department of psychology at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J.

“Men who really buy into this cultural script that they need to be tough and brave — that if they don’t act in a certain way they could lose their masculinity (or) ‘man-card’ (or) status — are less likely to seek preventative care, and delay care in the face of illness and injury,” Himmelstein added.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men born in 2009 will live five years less than women born the same year, a spread not fully explained by physical differences, the researchers noted.

To see whether the male psyche drives some men to undermine their own health, Himmelstein and co-author Diana Sanchez asked roughly 250 men to complete an online survey on gender perceptions and doctor preferences. The answers revealed that those with more masculine leanings were more likely to choose a male doctor.

Another 250 men — all undergraduate students — participated in a staged medical exam conducted by male and female pre-med and nursing students. The upshot: The more macho the patients, the less honest they were with their male caregiver.

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Those two trials were reported recently in the journal Preventive Medicine.

A prior study conducted by Himmelstein and Sanchez — published in the Journal of Health Psychology — involved gender-role interviews with nearly 500 males and females. It found that guys with traditional masculine ideals were less likely to seek health care, more likely to downplay symptoms, and had worse overall health compared with women and less masculine men.

The research team also found that women who viewed themselves as “brave” or “self-reliant” were also less likely to seek care or be honest about their health status with doctors than women who didn’t strongly embrace such characteristics.

But Himmelstein said she wouldn’t expect women to behave exactly the same as tough men across the board because “women don’t lose status or respect by displaying vulnerability or weakness.”

Timothy Smith, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, said these findings reflect long-standing social forces.

“Cultural beliefs, such as toughness, develop for a reason,” he said. “Decades ago, when our economy depended predominantly on manual labor, the ability to continue working despite (problematic) physical conditions benefited families dependent on that labor.”

Today, however, with effective health care much more accessible, equating toughness with denial of health conditions has dangerous consequences, he noted.

“The belief that disclosing physical illness indicates emotional weakness is absolutely false,” added Smith.
If you suspect a loved one or family member is avoiding medical treatment for fear of appearing weak, Smith suggested sharing these findings with him. “It is better to confront denial than delay treatment. When people fear to share their illness with a physician, they deny themselves and their family and friends the benefits of recovery,” Smith said.

Himmelstein added, “Just encouraging a tough guy to have a regular physical or see the doctor when sick would help.”
Also, she added, finding a doctor and an office setting in which patients feel at ease is “incredibly important.”

More information
There’s more on men’s health at the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

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The Surprising Key to Increasing Your Willpower

Research into the unexpected impact of pride on our self-discipline.

Your emotions play a significant role in your behavior. Being aware of those emotions, and how they influence your choices, can help you take steps to improve your self-discipline.

When you’re feeling bored with a project, for example, you may be less productive. You may stare off into space and grow distracted by just about everything going on around you.

On the other hand, when you feel excited about a project, you may be able to sit down and accomplish your task with intense focus. It’s much easier to exercise willpower—and tune out potential distractions—when you’re happy.

While there has been a lot of research into the link between emotion and self-control, a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research (link is external) examined the specific role pride plays in self-discipline.

Through a series of experiments, researchers concluded that under certain circumstances, pride increases self-control. But in other circumstances, pride gives people a license to indulge. The difference in whether pride increased or decreased self-control depended on the source of participants’ pride.

Pride boosted self-control when participants didn’t have a previously established self-control goal. Their pride stemmed from feeling good about who they are. If however, participants were already working toward a goal, pride led to self-destructive behavior. Their pride resulted from what they did.

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What It Means for You

The more pride you feel about your accomplishments toward your goal, the less likely you are to exercise self-control. Telling yourself, “I’ve done a great job already,” gives you permission to reward yourself. Ironically, even pride over your ability to demonstrate self-control decreases your will.

If you were dining out with a friend, and out of the blue your friend says, “Wow, you look like you’ve lost weight,” your feelings of pride could very well lead you to order a healthy meal. If however, you’d set a goal to lose 20 pounds a month ago, that same compliment could decrease your self-control. Your pride may cause you to think, “I’ve done well eating healthy and my hard work shows. I deserve a burger and fries today.”

Of course, none of this is to suggest that you shouldn’t establish goals that require self-discipline. Instead, be mindful of the ways your emotions can increase or decrease your motivation to stay on track.

How to Use Pride to Your Advantage

Self-discipline may come easily to you in some areas of your life. Perhaps you’ve successfully turned exercise into a daily habit. Or maybe you stick to your monthly budget with incredible perseverance. But there may also be one or two areas in which you just can’t seem to get your behavior under control.

Here are some strategies for using pride to your advantage:

  • Be aware of your emotions. Recognize how you’re feeling, and how those feelings influence your thoughts and behavior. Self-awareness is key to self-control.
  • Remind yourself that it’s OK to feel pride. Feeling pride about your achievements isn’t bad; it’s what you do with those feelings that matters.
  • Don’t allow pride to turn into overconfidence. Recognize how your prideful feelings may cause you to start thinking you’ve earned the right to overindulge.
  • Make a list of all the reasons why you should stay on track. Write down all the reasons why you should stick to your goals. When you’re low on willpower, reread the list. That should help balance your emotions with logic.

Pride in who you are, not what you’ve accomplished, is the key to self-discipline.

Amy Morin     Sep 28, 2015

Source: AmyMorinLCSW.com
Amy Morin is a keynote speaker, psychotherapist, and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do (link is external), a bestselling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages.