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Keywords:

  • men's health;
  • health service research;
  • gender issues;
  • nursing;
  • literature review

Aim.  This paper reviews the key research literature regarding men's health-related help seeking behaviour.

Background.  There is a growing body of research in the United States to suggest that men are less likely than women to seek help from health professionals for problems as diverse as depression, substance abuse, physical disabilities and stressful life events. Previous research has revealed that the principle health related issue facing men in the UK is their reluctance to seek access to health services.

Method.  The investigation of men's health-related help seeking behaviour has great potential for improving both men and women's lives and reducing national health costs through the development of responsive and effective interventions. A search of the literature was conducted using CINAHL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO and the Cochrane Library databases.

Results.  Studies comparing men and women are inadequate in explaining the processes involved in men's help seeking behaviour. However, the growing body of gender-specific studies highlights a trend of delayed help seeking when they become ill. A prominent theme among white middle class men implicates ‘traditional masculine behaviour’ as an explanation for delays in seeking help among men who experience illness. The reasons and processes behind this issue, however, have received limited attention.

Conclusions.  Principally, the role of masculine beliefs and the similarities and differences between men of differing background requires further attention, particularly given the health inequalities that exist between men of differing socio-economic status and ethnicity. Further research using heterogeneous samples is required in order to gain a greater understanding of the triggers and barriers associated with the decision making process of help seeking behaviour in men who experience illness.