Two in three men do not feel well informed of the various illnesses and ailments that commonly affect them, according to Aflac’s 2021 Men’s Health Issues Survey.1 Unfortunately, this sentiment could lead men to delay seeking proper medical attention. To help promote the importance of men’s health, each November, the “Movember” and “No Shave November” nonprofit campaigns address this awareness gap by encouraging men to raise funds for men’s health ailments like prostate and testicular cancer by taking a break from shaving.
With millions of people supporting “Movember” and “No Shave November” across the globe, it’s likely small-business employees are among them. Besides financial contributions, small-business owners can show their support by using this month as an opportunity to educate, encourage and provide access to insurance options that help employees to proactively protect their health and financial well-being.
Barriers to men’s health
Although the benefits of preventative care are well known, nearly half (45%) of men did not visit a family doctor or general practitioner for an annual check-up or wellness visit in the past year.1 While there are a variety of reasons why some men put off such care, one common explanation is uneasiness about going to the doctor, with nearly one-third (29%) of men aged 18-34 reporting they experience fear or anxiety about a physician’s visit. 1
Research from Cleveland Clinic even found 72% of men would rather do household chores, like cleaning the bathroom or mowing the lawn, than go to the doctor.2 Regardless of age, regular exams are key to discovering and treating health problems in the early stages. For instance, the average age of a testicular cancer diagnosis is 33, but it has a high rate of successful treatment.3
Cost concerns are another frequent hurdle for men to seek care, with 13% of men reporting that medical costs keep them awake at night, according to the Aflac survey.1 This fear is so strong that 45% of men admitted they have postponed or avoided medical treatment in some form due to costs within the past 12 months, including filling prescriptions, seeing a doctor for a serious illness or injury, or getting physician-recommended screenings or exams.
A multipronged approach to change
Although there’s no quick fix for changing men’s common health habits, employers can help dismantle these barriers by take a few proactive approaches:
- Educate: As indicated above, many men, especially younger men, simply feel they need more information about the issues that impact men’s health. Tackling this challenge head-on with more education can help narrow this knowledge gap. In fact, 1 in 5 men ages 18-34 said they would be more likely to keep up with annual check-ups if they were more aware of illnesses and ailments that affect men.1 Businesses can use the month of November as a reason to share health care and benefit resources and educational materials with their workforce. Consider checking in with your insurer or broker, since many offer a library of health care resources and educational materials – from flyers and videos to webinars and e-books – that employers can leverage.
- Encourage: Although some men may be reluctant to go to the doctor, research shows many men are receptive to encouragement: 56% of men said the women in their lives are the best at spurring them to get a check-up.1 Businesses can remind their female employees that they can help make a difference, too, by encouraging the men in their lives — be it a father, boyfriend, husband or son — to go to their doctor.Even encouraging men to start a dialogue about health care with their friends and families can have a positive snowball effect. In fact, Aflac’s survey found 16% of men ages 18-34 indicated they wished they could talk with other men, such as extended family members or friends, about their health-related issues.1
- Provide access: Another way to help convince men to go to the doctor is by addressing the financial concerns over potential out-of-pocket costs. Offering supplemental insurance options, like those offered by Aflac, to your workers helps them with expenses health insurance doesn’t cover by quickly paying cash benefits that can be used however one wants in the event of a covered illness or injury. Some plans also have a wellness or health screening benefit available to policyholders. These benefits pay cash when the policyholder takes preventative care measures like getting an annual physical, diagnostic test or prostate screening — and it pays even if health insurance already covers it.
By promoting these benefits, employers can provide the extra nudge some men may need. In fact, a full 10% of men said they would be motivated to see a doctor if they directly received a cash benefit as part of an insurance claim.1
We all want the men in our lives to take good care of themselves. By reminding employees about the importance of being proactive about their health and ensuring they are financially prepared for an illness or injury, businesses can help men take charge of their well-being.
Jeramy Tipton is a senior vice president of Distribution Expansion and Consumer Markets at Aflac.
1 The 2021 Aflac Men’s Health Issues Survey is a national online survey of 1,000 U.S. men fielded in April 2021 by Hill+Knowlton Strategies. Learn more at Aflac.com/MensHealth.
2 Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Clinic Survey: Men will do Almost Anything to Avoid Going to the Doctor. Date Accessed Oct. 14, 2021.
3 American Cancer Society. “Key Statistics for Testicular Cancer.” https://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicular-cancer/about/key-statistics.html. Accessed Oct. 14, 2021.
Men’s health stock image by chomplearn/Shutterstock