June is Men’s Health Month, a topic that has become more relevant amid a pandemic.
To discover the state of men’s health, ValuePenguin surveyed nearly 1,050 men about visiting the doctor, lying to physicians and loved ones about their health, and screening for cancers.
More than half of the men surveyed don’t know how to self-screen for testicular cancer, making the need for annual checkups even more important. Here’s what else researchers discovered.
- Key findings
- More than half of men don’t know how to self-screen for testicular cancer
- More than 4 in 10 men haven’t gone to a doctor for their annual physical in the past year
- Millennial, Gen X men more stubborn about going to the doctor — and the lies they tell
- More than 1 in 5 men not likely to call their doctor if they feel sick
- Men think they’re in better health than women do
- More than half of men don’t know how to self-screen for testicular cancer. While some doctors recommend taking this preventive care measure once a month, 53% of men don’t know how. An additional 26% of men say they don’t self-screen often even though they know how.
- More young men should go to the doctor for annual visits. More than 4 in 10 men haven’t gone to a doctor for an annual physical in the past year. More than half of Gen Z and millennial men didn’t get an annual exam in the past year, compared with only 29% of baby boomer men.
- Finances play a large role in men shunning doctor visits. 44% of men say their avoidance of the doctor stems from financial reasons.
- Many men go to the doctor to keep loved ones happy, and others lie about doing so. 42% of men admit they go to the doctor because of a nagging loved one. However, 24% of men say they have lied to a loved one about going to the doctor when they didn’t.
- Some men lie about their health. 28% of men admit to lying to their doctor, primarily about exercise. Of that group, 38% fibbed about their fitness, 36% about their drug or alcohol usage, 26% about their sexual health and 25% about their diet.
- Men think they’re in better health than women do. 28% of men grade their current health as excellent, compared with 20% of women.
More than half of men don’t know how to self-screen for testicular cancer
According to ValuePenguin’s survey, 53% of men don’t know how to self-screen for testicular cancer. Another quarter of men know how but don’t do it often.
Although some medical professionals advise men to self-screen for testicular cancer once a month, only about 1 in 5 respondents report doing so, led by Gen Xers (ages 41 to 55) and millennials (ages 25 to 40).
Self-screening can help individuals catch signs of cancer — including growths or other irregularities — earlier, making it easier to treat.
When it comes to colonoscopies, 19% of eligible men say they’ve never had one. Only 5% of men had their last colonoscopy more than 10 years ago — it’s recommended every 10 years for those ages 45 to 75.
Colonoscopies become more problematic from a generational standpoint, as 1 in 5 baby boomers (ages 56 to 75) have never had a colonoscopy — despite the new recommendation to start no later than age 45.
More than 4 in 10 men haven’t gone to a doctor for their annual physical in the past year
While most men report seeing a doctor for a physical within the past couple of years, 42% haven’t done so in the past year despite general recommendations that these checkups be done annually.
This reluctance seems to be more common among younger generations. Seventy-one percent of baby boomer men report having seen a doctor within the past 12 months, compared with 49% of millennial men and 48% of Gen Z (ages 18 to 24) men.
Most health plans cover preventive care, including annual physicals, says Sterling Price, ValuePenguin senior research analyst.
"Although missing your annual checkup will not have immediate insurance implications, it could lead to issues down the road if you missed discovering that you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure," Price says, which could lead to increased risks of heart disease.
Researchers also asked respondents whether they would say they avoid going to the doctor (in general, rather than specifically for annual checkups) because of the costs associated with it. Among men, 44% agree at least somewhat.
Dental coverage is separate from most affordable health insurance offerings, making it a potential source of anxiety and money loss.
Separately, the ValuePenguin survey found that many men aren’t following recommended guidelines of twice-yearly dental visits.
In fact, 60% of men haven’t been to the dentist for a cleaning in the past six months — and 43% say it’s been more than a year since their last visit. This, however, is less surprising, as dental fear is relatively common, impacting about half of the population to some degree.
Millennial, Gen X men more stubborn about going to the doctor — and the lies they tell
Forty-two percent of men agree, at least somewhat, that they only go to the doctor when a loved one bugs them about it repeatedly. This is most prevalent among millennial — 53% — and Gen X — 52% — men. (Only 20% of baby boomer men agree with this sentiment.)
Thirty-two percent of millennial and 31% of Gen X men say they have lied to a loved one about going to the doctor when they didn’t. That’s compared to 21% of overall respondents and 24% of men:
As it turns out, lying to a doctor is relatively common among men (28%) and women (27%). Among men, Gen Zers are most likely to say they’ve lied to a doctor, with the most common lies related to exercise, drug and alcohol use, and sexual health:
The top three lies vary slightly across generational lines for men (in order):
- Gen Zers: Exercise, drug and alcohol use, and dieting
- Millennials: Exercise, drug and alcohol use, and sexual health
- Gen Xers: Exercise, drug and alcohol use, and dieting
- Baby boomers: Drug and alcohol use, exercise and dieting
More than 1 in 5 men not likely to call their doctor if they feel sick
Not including COVID-19-related symptoms, 41% of men say they are very likely to call their doctor if they’re sick within the first few days of symptoms.
This split is almost on par with women, though a higher percentage (27%) of women say they’d wait to see if the problem resolved itself than men (22%).
But many men hesitate before calling their doctor: More than 1 in 5 say they won’t call their doctor if they feel sick, instead opting to wait to see if the problem resolves itself. And another 38% only call if the symptoms persist a while.
That said, the waiting game may be more appropriate, depending on the situation. So researchers also asked what reasons would bring respondents in to see the doctor. Among men, 56% say they’d go if it’s been several days without any improvement, and 39% would call if the pain were prohibiting them from living their life.
Researchers also looked at how often people tend to follow their doctor’s advice. More men claim to always follow their doctor’s advice than women: 38% of men say they always stick by the doctor’s orders, compared with 26% of women.
Men think they’re in better health than women do
Among those surveyed, about three-quarters of men say their health is good or excellent, while 67% of women say the same:
While only about 25% of men rate their health as average or worse, a third of women say the same. Interestingly, Gen Z men (26%) are more likely than millennial (20%) and Gen X (21%) men to rate their health this way.
At the same time, however, Gen Z and millennial men rate their health the best, with 36% deeming it excellent. But health insurance isn’t just for those in poor health, Price says. It’s for everyone.
After all, no one expects costly medical issues to crop up, especially if they’re healthy. But accidents and illnesses happen. Whether you break a bone and need a backstop to help pay for associated costs, or you have multiple medical conditions, one thing is clear: Health, and health insurance, should be prioritized whenever possible.
ValuePenguin commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 2,024 U.S. consumers (including 1,046 men) from May 3-6, 2021. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.
We defined generations as the following ages in 2021:
- Gen Zers: 18 to 24
- Millennials: 25 to 40
- Gen Xers: 41 to 55
- Baby boomers: 56 to 75
While the survey also included consumers from the silent generation (defined as those age 76 and older), the sample size was too small to include findings related to that group in the generational breakdowns.