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Men twice as likely to ignore serious health symptoms

Ryan Fowler

July 24, 2014

Two thirds (65%) of working men in the UK have ignored a general health problem, while 7% (or 1.2 million working men) chose not to seek medical help after experiencing more serious symptoms, such as tingling, numbness or double vision.

Most illnesses get worse if left untreated for a sustained period of time and subsequently, male workers are more likely to end up taking long-term sick leave than female workers.

According to the latest figures from ONS, last year there were 50% more men on long-term sick leave than women. What’s more, men at the prime of their career (aged 18-45) are 21% more likely to be on long-term sick leave than women of the same age.

For some men, even suffering from a serious health condition would not be enough to prompt them to seek medical attention.

Indeed, almost half (44%) of British men claim that they would not visit their doctor in the event of experiencing chest pains, while just one third (37%) would seek medical advice if they had shortness of breath. On noticing blood in their urine just two thirds (63%) of men say that they would do anything about it.

Despite the risk of their condition worsening, for many working men it’s the fear of the unknown that prevents them from making a trip to the doctors.

One in 10 cite ‘not wanting to hear bad news’ as one of the reasons for not seeking medical help, while a similar number (9%) are ‘put off’ by doctors.

However, almost half (44%) of men choose to adopt the ostrich position and hope that any health problem will ‘sort itself out’.

For men who have sought advice for a serious health problem in the past five years, one in five (20%) left it longer than a week before going to see a doctor.

While the emotional and physical consequences of long-term sickness can be distressing, the financial impact it can have is often also very significant.

Worryingly, almost one in 10 (9%) men admit that they don’t have a backup plan, with 8% of men saying that they don’t know how they would manage financially if they were sick and without their regular income for a prolonged period.

When asked about their company’s sick pay policy, a fifth of men stated that their company did not offer one, with a further 17% saying that they are unsure as to whether their company has one.

Despite this, only a third (37%) of men have any critical illness or income protection cover in place, meaning that many would have to rely on Statutory Sick Pay if they were unable to work.

Given that Statutory Sick Pay equates to just £87.55 per week, someone earning the average UK wage would see their income drop by 78% if they only had that to fall back on. In fact, as Statutory Sick Pay only provides workers with an income for seven months, many could find themselves in a financially vulnerable position if they were unable to work for a prolonged period of time.

Mark Jones, LV= head of protection, said: “A large number of men, in particular, are burying their heads in the sand when it comes to addressing their health concerns.

“This not only means they’re putting their health at risk but also increases the likelihood that they will have to take long-term sick leave, which can have a significantly negative impact on their finances.

“Whilst no one wants to think about getting ill, the reality is that some people will need to be off work for a long period of time.

“Having a contingency plan, such as income protection or critical illness cover offers people peace of mind that if they were to fall ill they can focus on getting better without the added worry of making ends meet.”


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