Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Friday, 26 March 2010

Women 'more likely to report ill health than men'

By Jane Ashley
Health reporter, BBC News

Women are more likely to visit the doctor
Are women 'greater hypochondriacs?'

Women are more likely than men to complain about their health even when they are in better shape, according to government statistics.

UK researchers looked at links between how healthy people thought they were, and their death rate.

They found women were more likely than men to say they were in poor health, but less likely to die over the following 5 years.

Doctors are concerned about men's apparent lack of awareness of health.

The analysis used data from three studies across England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

It looked at how those aged 35-74 at the time of the 2001 Census rated their health, and their mortality from 2001 to 2006.

Men are less aware of their symptoms than women, and are more reluctant to seek help.
Peter Baker, Chief Executive of the Men's Health Forum

It found there was generally a strong association between those reporting that their health was only poor or fair, and subsequent deaths.

Women were more likely to report poorer health than men, but this was not reflected in subsequent mortality rates.

Doctors and campaigners are concerned about men's apparent lack of awareness about health problems and reluctance to go to the doctor.

Commenting on the study, Steve Field, Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said women are better at disclosing how they feel about their health.

Steps should be taken to encourage men to report health problems earlier, he said.

"The message for the health system is that it should try harder to make it easier for men to access healthcare through suitable hours, venues and phone or computer consultations.

"If men have got concerns about their health, they should come and talk to their GP," he added.

'Extremely worrying'

Peter Baker, Chief Executive of the Men's Health Forum, said the findings were consistent with previous research which showed men are less likely than women to acknowledge health problems to themselves or others.

He pointed out that studies have shown that men who develop diseases like cancer and diabetes tend to be diagnosed later than women.

Mr Baker said: "Men are less aware of their symptoms than women, and are more reluctant to seek help.

"They delay going to the doctor which means their symptoms are more advanced and harder to treat.

"This is extremely worrying. Forty percent of men die before the age of 75."

Read some of your comments about this story:

This report backs up what all men know. I don't think it's an "awareness" problem as such, it's more an unwillingness to admit weakness amongst your peers; I think a lot of men think of ill-health as just that, a sign of weakness. This viewpoint is unfortunately compounded by their rare experiences at the doctors, who are often all too happy to send you on your way with a "drink plenty of fluids, and come back in two weeks if it's no better." Men don't want to put their hands in the air, admit "weakness", and then essentially get told to go away and "man up." If GPs could appreciate that less than ideal mindset and act more compassionately, it may make a difference!
James, Exeter

You only have to visit a doctor's surgery to realise, as the majority in the waiting room are women, which sex is the greater hypochondriac.
Paul Watts, Vejle, Denmark

This is all hardly a surprise given the unfair bias towards paying for awareness and treatment of women's illnesses compared to men's. Look at how much goes to combat breast cancer, while prostate cancer is almost forgotten. For every prostate cancer drug on the market, there are seven used to treat breast cancer.
Peter C, Newcastle

Men tend to see health as a very black and white thing - "I'm either ill or I'm well" whereas women tend to see health in a more open spectrum. As such, men will deny they are ill until it becomes unavoidable, at which point they are more than happy to adopt the "sick role." Hence the terrible severity of apparent "man flu."
Josh, Nottingham

Is it not partly the case, though, that men are more aware of the fact that in the vast majority of cases the doctor cannot do much with their problem (who are the worriers queuing up for antibiotics to treat a virus? I would suspect fewer men would fall into this category as they know it won't help). Whilst I am sure there are things that can be done to improve men's health, it should not be forgotten that there are numerous cases where medical intervention causes worse outcomes than would occur with no intervention at all. Surely the primary focus for men's health is to allow them to identify when they have something serious that really is worth investigating further?
Neil, Fulham, London

Men are reluctant to come forward in case they are accused of having 'man flu', so they hide their symptoms and try to tough it out. If doctors are serious about men's health, they need to stop lecturing us, and start opening weekends and evenings. If they don't do that, they can't be that bothered.
Rick, Sheffield

If women make greater demands on the NHS they should pay a higher rate of National Insurance than men. "Men are less aware of their symptoms than women, and are more reluctant to seek help". Er no men don't moan and whinge as much as women!
C Towers, Leeds

This is true. My mother and my wife are always moaning about their health. Even a simple cold makes them miserable. My wife seems to always think she has a cough despite rarely coughing. And don't get me started on sleep. If my wife doesn't get seven solid hours a night she moans whereas I rarely get more than five, feel awful in the morning but keep it to myself.
Roger, London

Since seeing a doctor now involves "same day booking" - i.e. taking a day off work and sitting around waiting to be seen - is it any wonder that men have a harder time than women in getting medical help? Still, I'm sure driving away working patients results in a more efficient service for layabouts and whingers.
Mark Saunders, Bath

Print Sponsor

Does 'man flu' really exist?
24 Mar 10 |  Health
Women 'fight off disease better'
13 May 09 |  Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific