Wednesday 16 October 2019

Men and millennials: if you feel sick, see a GP - Googling or putting it off won't save your life

GPs are increasingly opting to charge for the blood tests and advise patients who do not want to pay that they can get the service free in their hospital instead (Stock picture)
GPs are increasingly opting to charge for the blood tests and advise patients who do not want to pay that they can get the service free in their hospital instead (Stock picture)
Sinead Moriarty

Sinead Moriarty

What is it about men that makes them view a visit to the doctor with a mixture of fear and fatalism? A new report out in the UK, by consultancy Health2020, says that a third of people delay appointments with their GPs, with middle-aged men being the worst culprits.

The main reason found for avoiding the doctor is fear of finding out something awful is wrong. Other reasons include the dread of being physically examined, fear of treatment, looking weak and that treatment may lead to sexual dysfunction.

In Ireland, men are unhealthier than women and die, on average, five years earlier. They tend to have unhealthier lifestyles and go to the doctor only when their symptoms have become acute. More men here die from heart disease, cancers and suicide than women. Men still feel that it's somehow 'stoic' to battle on through pain and put off visiting the doctor until they are in a bad way and it may be too late.

A lot of men feel that their identity is tied up in their jobs. They are defined by the work they do and they are terrified that illness, physical or mental, will have a negative impact on their career prospects or how they are treated and viewed in the workplace.

Sadly, and often tragically, men are particularly slow about seeking help for mental health. We have one of the highest rates of male suicide in the world. Each week we have, on average, 10 suicides in Ireland and eight of them are men.

Women are better at going to the doctor for many reasons - they tend to end up in surgeries more often because pregnancy and childbirth bring them into contact with doctors and they are also usually the ones who bring the children to the doctor. Women generally also tend to be more open about illness and ailments than men.

But it's not just men who are predominantly avoiding the doctor. Another study has shown that millennials (18 to 34-year-olds) are shying away from doctors too.

Instead of going to see a GP, they'd rather Google their symptoms and check them out online. God forbid they'd go to meet an actual doctor face to face, one who can check their blood pressure, temperature, vital signs, etc.

According to the results found by ZocDoc, an online appointment website, the millennial generation will try to solve their medical issues independently, with 28pc saying they would self-diagnose and 36pc saying they would treat themselves at home.

Time is the main reason for millennials shunning the doctor's surgery - 42pc said they would most likely cancel a check-up because they were too busy.

"A lot of young adults feel they have absolutely no time to go to the doctor," said Dr Karen Soren, director of adolescent medicine at New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. "Young adults don't have that sense of job security within their employment settings. And they feel healthcare is relatively expendable."

Because millennials hate to be seen missing work to go to the doctor, they'll end up visiting hospital A&Es, which are open 24/7. This then blocks up the A&Es, which are supposed to be treating emergencies only.

Millennials are generally a physically healthy group, and they look after their bodies better than previous generations. Millennials work out and exercise more and they tend to eat a more healthy diet.

However, they suffer badly from stress, anxiety and burn-out. All three symptoms can lead to physical and also serious mental health problems. It's important that they don't try to self-diagnose and self-medicate. A visit to an actual doctor is vital.

Another reason for the fall-off in visits to GPs in recent years has been the cost. At least six in 10 people who do not have medical cards delay going to see their GP or consultant because of the cost involved. At an average of €55 a visit, it's a hefty price to pay.

A survey, 'The Patients' Perspective - A Survey of Chronic Disease Management in Ireland', was carried out by the Adelaide Health Foundation and the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at Trinity College Dublin. According to the findings, 63pc of people who have to pay to see a GP and 68pc who have to pay to see a consultant put off visits because of the cost involved.

Stephen McMahon, chairman of the Irish Patients' Association, said: "Certainly, with the economic pressures on families, every area of spending is being looked at and if you're having to pay €55 to €60 to visit the doctor, there's a chance you will try and put it off for as long as possible, which may lead to a worsening of your condition."

Whatever the reason for avoiding the doctor, be it fear, busyness or financial pressure, it is vital that we put our health first. Letting ailments get worse, or symptoms worsen, could be a death sentence. Avoidance and Googling are not going to save your life.

Irish Independent

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