Societal Expectations and the Impact on Men’s Health Attitudes

Dr. James Grant

| 3 min read

When it comes to health care, men tend to be much more reluctant than women to obtain preventive care or seek out medical care when there’s an issue. And this reluctance can increase their risk for health consequences.
A host of studies have found that cultural views of masculinity affect men’s health care behavior. Societal pressure for men to be tough or to “suck it up” when in pain can influence men’s attitudes about their own physical or mental health issues.
For example, in a 2023 Cleveland Clinic survey, 65% of men said they are hesitant to get help for stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns. In the same survey, only two in five men who experienced a problem with sexual health got help for it.
Attitudes about masculinity can also influence lifespan. A recent research study shows how the gap in life expectancy between men and women has been widening for the last 10 years, with women now living on average 5.8 years longer than men.
Notably, men experience a disproportionate share of deaths from preventable causes –heart disease, suicide, alcoholic liver disease and drug use disorders. Riskier health behavior and hesitancy in getting help for a symptom or problem add up to negative health consequences.

Empowering Men to Prioritize Their Health

Breaking away from the stereotypical ideas of masculinity is not always easy. But as society becomes more open and encouraging to seek help for physical or mental health issues, men’s overall health can benefit.
It’s always OK to ask for help. Whether the concern is mental or physical, physicians, therapists and other health care professionals are here to help.
A great place to start is with a primary care physician. Primary care physicians are the first line of defense for health issues. It’s standard practice for primary care physicians to review the patient’s history, evaluate their symptoms and determine whether additional tests are needed. A primary care physician also can refer patients to other specialists as necessary.

Opening Up Through Social Connections 

Another way for men to let their guard down is through trusted personal or social connection. For example, men’s therapy groups offer a secure atmosphere where men can feel more comfortable sharing their experiences or expressing emotion.
Men’s groups offer peer-to-peer opportunities for feedback and support, which fosters a sense of belonging. Over time, men learn to open up and redefine their own views on what it means to be a man.
In the meantime, we all can help to change old ways of thinking by normalizing the expression of emotion and encouraging seeking help.
James D. Grant, M.D., is senior vice president and chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health tips and information, visit

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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