Tough guys less likely to be honest with male doctors

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tough guys are more likely to ignore medical problems or at least put off dealing with them, according to new research. And while tough guys prefer male doctors, they're less likely to be honest with them.

You probably know a man who's tough, self-reliant and restrained in expressing emotions. Doctors know them, too, as men who put off seeing them.

"By the time they come to us, the symptoms are progressed to the point where some aggressive intervention is needed," said Dr. David Voran, a family practice physician with Truman Medical Center Lakewood.

Dale Mercer, who's seeing his doctor at Truman Lakewood, said that's not him.

"If I have pain, if I don't feel right, I want to know what's going on," said Mercer.

But he also admitted that he hasn't always been completely open with doctors about symptoms.

"As a man, you do kinda hold back a little bit because you don't want to appear weak," said Mercer.

"Then we'll see them a few months later, or a week later, brought in by their wives and they'll start to address the issue," said Dr. Voran.

Rutgers researchers found that tough guys prefer male doctors, but they are less open with male doctors than they are with female doctors. Researchers say perhaps it's because men don't lose status with women in showing their vulnerabilities.

Dr. Voran said he's found it all depends upon the reason for the visit.

"They may be much more honest with the female doctor about depression or some other mood type disorders, but when it comes to male organ related issues, they specify a man," he said.

Dr. Voran said honesty is the foundation for good medical care, so regardless of the health issue and regardless of whether you're seeing a male or female doctor, "I would say it's manly to be honest."

Researchers say men putting off seeing the doctor, and not being totally honest with the doctor, may contribute to men dying earlier than women. The research is in the Journal of Health Psychology and the journal Preventive Medicine.