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

For the study, researchers surveyed 610 African-American men, age 20 and older, mostly recruited in barbershops all over country. (Scientists adjusted the results for age, education, income differences, health insurance status and whether men had regular physician access.)
In previous studies, researchers found that men who were committed to traditional masculine roles were more apt to delay health care because they didn’t want to appear weak. “But this study shows that the opposite may be true for African-American men,” said Wizdom Powell Hammond, PhD, an assistant professor of health behavior and health education at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and the study’s lead author. “Their delays in getting routine checkups are attributable more to medical mistrust, and their beliefs about masculinity may not always have a negative impact on their use of health care.”

It’s well-known that men of all races and ethnicities are less likely than women to use preventive health services, such as cholesterol and blood pressure screenings. But brothers wait even longer to seek care if they feel sick or notice symptoms.

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

To improve the health of African-American men, we should consider addressing why they don’t trust the health care system and its providers, researchers recommended.

“Health care providers and public health professionals also might consider leveraging traditional masculine self-reliance in interventions and clinical encounters as a way to empower African-American men to ‘seize control’ of their health,” Hammond suggested.

Did you know that men don’t have to go the doctor to get certain health screenings? Click here to learn more.