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Published June 16, 2012, 11:30 PM

Why and how women take care of men’s health

Sanford’s Dr. Dan Dahl says it’s often a woman who’s behind a man’s office visit. “So, what brings you in today?” “My girlfriend/fiancée/wife made me go.”

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

FARGO - Dustin Hill’s allergies were so severe he had an allergy attack during his outdoors proposal to girlfriend Tanna.

He “sneezed all over me for five minutes before he could get the words out,” says Tanna, now his wife of four years.

The 26-year-old Fargo woman nagged her husband for years to see a doctor about it.

“The man couldn’t breathe out of his nose for nine months out of the year,” she says. “It was driving me crazy.”

Finally, 27-year-old Dustin gave in and has been getting allergy shots. Tanna says “the difference is amazing.”

Sanford’s Dr. Dan Dahl says it’s often a woman who’s behind a man’s office visit.

“So, what brings you in today?”

“My girlfriend/fiancée/wife made me go.”

Most women of child-bearing age have a built-in yearly checkup with the annual pelvic exam/Pap test. Men obviously don’t.

Dahl, a family physician, says if men don’t have to see a doctor, they generally won’t. They don’t think there’s a problem if they aren’t showing symptoms.

However, many of the issues men need to be seen for aren’t symptomatic.

“When men are younger, especially, they don’t like to think about being sick, death and dying,” he says. “They’re more worried about the present than looking ahead to the future.”

Women, on the other hand, do tend to think about the future.

“We nag them because we see the bigger picture. I want him healthy so he can be there for our children, grandchildren, and those super-exciting nursing home years,” Hill says of her husband.

Furthermore, Deborah White of Minnesota State University Moorhead says planning and scheduling predominantly fall on women’s shoulders, and that includes doctor’s appointments.

“Besides physical work, there are still significant gender differences in terms of the division of emotional work and mental work,” says White, the chairwoman of the department of sociology and criminal justice.

“I think people would be surprised if they really thought about it,” she says.

Women generally are also more comfortable talking about their health problems than men, Dahl says.

He says men “like to downplay things and ignore them.”

It doesn’t help that boys and men are raised with the mentality that they can “tough it out” or “walk it off.”

“If he’s having a health issue, I want it found and fixed, not temporarily numbed and walked off,” Hill says of her husband.

Sociologist White says men tend to be in better health when they’re in relationships.

“When men are in relationships with women or have connections with women, they’re more likely to have the women encourage them to get regular health care,” she says.

Dahl says men often become more willing to address their health issues when they have children.

“I think it does motivate them,” he says. “It motivates them to stop smoking or drinking or lose weight.”

Hill says her husband does a much better job of taking care of himself now, especially after their daughter was born two years ago.

“I’m lucky to have a man who was able to see past the nagging and understand where I was coming from,” she says.