An alarming amount of people avoid their doctor. Unless we’ve become more paranoid than I imagined, it’s not because everyone is suddenly convinced that doctors are out to do them harm. Nor is there anything “sudden” about it. There has been a widespread trend of people putting off going to the doctors since at least the sixties. And that record only exists because people started recording the relevant statistics in the late sixties. People have probably been avoiding going to the doctor since the origins of medical procedures in the fifth millennium BCE. (But doctors did casually drill holes into people’s heads for millennia, so maybe we can forgive some hesitance.)
So why do so many people avoid going to the doctor? Regular physical checkups are pretty darn important, especially when symptoms of a problem are starting to show. Let’s take a quick look at some of the reasons people aren’t going.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Let’s take a look at people who are already taking good care of themselves. The media image of human beings being generally gross and eating smoking and drinking ourselves to death? It doesn’t apply to everyone. There are plenty of people out there who have never smoked, whose lips don’t touch booze, who exercise regularly and eat lots of organic food. You’d think that a person who so assiduously takes care of themselves would be smart enough to get regular check-ups, right?
Well, not quite. People who take care of themselves are often thinking that by taking matters into their own hands that they’ve negated the need to see a doctor at all. Why get a physical checkup if there couldn’t possibly be anything wrong? An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? Or should we change that to An apple a day keeps you away from the doctor?
The inability to go anywhere, let alone to the doctor
Of course, for several people, it’s not a question of mindset. Many people are simply unable to go to the doctor because they’re disabled in some way. If you don’t have enough mobility to leave your house to get the mail, how are you expected to be mobile enough to see the doctor?
To get a clear view on how widespread this problem can be, you may need to readjust your definition of “disabled”. You may have pictured someone wheelchair-bound, perhaps someone who has to have frequent medical help. But disabilities can range from that to much “smaller” mobility problems. If you’ve got a persistent and painful limp, then you’re not going to be thrilled about taking a walk to see your doctor. This is why research into telemedicine technology is so vital.
Cultural prejudices regarding medical care
This problem covers many different issues. Let’s take America as an example ground here, due to its astonishing variety in ethnicity. Studies have shown that pretty much all ethnic and cultural groups have their own prejudices about medical treatment. Hispanic, Oriental, Islamic, African, Indians… Heck, anyone can carry unique prejudices and expectations regarding medicine!
The medical culture of someone’s homeland, or that of their family, often dictates their own behaviour. It could be something as simple as a spiritual belief in the acceptance of biological ills. It could be something as strange and complex as a masculinity issue that makes some men see the doctor as something weaker people engage with.
That newfangled Internet thing
The Internet has brought us many great things. All this information available at the touch of a button! It’s almost too much to handle. Actually, many would say that it is too much to handle and is causing negative psychological effects. But I guess that’s another article for another day.
For now, we’ll focus on all that information being used by people to self-diagnose. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with this. It’s good that many people are being proactive and are looking into their ills themselves. But when you check your symptoms on the Internet, you need to take everything you read with a pinch of salt. You must combine it with actually going to the doctor. Make no assumptions about what it is that’s actually wrong with you!
Fear of bad news
Sometimes, it’s the sign that something could be really bad that stops us people from going to the doctor. Someone who gets regular checkups could find a lump on their body while they’re in the shower. Suddenly, they’ll stop getting those checkups. Their brain has jumped to a possible conclusion that they don’t want to have confirmed by a doctor.