African-American men may delay going to thedoctor—but that has more to do with distrusting the health care systemthan with having too much masculine pride, according to a studypublished in the Journal of General Internal Medicine and reported by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Forthe study, researchers surveyed 610 African-American men, age 20 andolder, mostly recruited in barbershops all over country. (Scientistsadjusted the results for age, education, income differences, healthinsurance status and whether men had regular physician access.)
Inprevious studies, researchers found that men who were committed totraditional masculine roles were more apt to delay health care becausethey didn’t want to appear weak. “But this study shows that theopposite may be true for African-American men,” said Wizdom PowellHammond, PhD, an assistant professor of health behavior and healtheducation at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and thestudy’s lead author. “Their delays in getting routine checkups areattributable more to medical mistrust, and their beliefs aboutmasculinity may not always have a negative impact on their use ofhealth care.”

It’s well-known that men of all races andethnicities are less likely than women to use preventive healthservices, such as cholesterol and blood pressure screenings. Butbrothers wait even longer to seek care if they feel sick or noticesymptoms.

What these findings showed is that black men whosaid they mistrusted the medical system were more than twice as likelyto delay checkups and cholesterol screenings and three times morelikely to delay having their blood pressure checked by a physician thanmen who were less mistrustful.

To improve the health ofAfrican-American men, we should consider addressing why they don’ttrust the health care system and its providers, researchers recommended.

“Healthcare providers and public health professionals also might considerleveraging traditional masculine self-reliance in interventions andclinical encounters as a way to empower African-American men to ‘seizecontrol’ of their health,” Hammond suggested.