Men with a strong sense of masculinity are about 50% less likely than their not-so-macho peers to seek out preventative health-care services, according to a survey of 1,000 middle-aged American men. What’s more, even though people with higher job status are usually more likely to follow health-care guidelines, that pattern doesn’t seem to hold among manly men. Lower-paid masculine workers were in fact more likely to see a doctor than, say, macho managers and execs. “For masculine men in blue-collar occupations, this research suggests that the masculinity threat of seeking health care is less concerning than the masculinity threat of not performing their jobs,” said researcher Kristen Springer in a statement. She presented her findings yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.
But there’s one thing that’s curious about the study. Of the three preventative services that Springer and colleagues decided to review — whether men had an annual physical exam, a flu shot, and a prostate exam — only the flu shot has been shown to have any real health benefit. People who get annual physicals don’t seem to live longer than those who don’t, while public health organizations now claim that there’s insufficient evidence to support prostate-cancer screening in middle-aged men, and good evidence to recommend against screening in men over 75. The general point of Springer’s study of course still stands: Macho men seem less likely to seek a doctor’s help. But it is hard to shake the feeling that — at least in this case — while these guys were bragging to their buddies that they didn’t need care, they were actually right.