MENtion It 2021: An Improvement

In Reviewing This Year’s MENtion It Campaign, I See Many Positive Trends

Each year, the Cleveland Clinic conducts its annual MENtion It campaign. The campaign “aims to address the fact that men often do not ‘MENtion’ health issues or take steps to prevent them.” This year, there were two main themes: how telehealth can help positively impact men’s health and a continued look at the attitudes of men when it comes to regularly engaging in preventative care. 

I had a chance to chat with Dr. Bajic again this year. 

After discussing the concept of a “check engine” light with him last year, I was thrilled to chat with him again this year. On an Instagram Live, we discussed a variety of topics, including erectile dysfunction, low testosterone, and more. We also realized how much we look alike. He shared some of the following highlights:

  • The most common causes of erectile dysfunction are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and tobacco use. The reason those conditions cause erectile dysfunction is because they cause cardiovascular disease or a hardening or narrowing of the arteries. The arteries that supply the penis are less than one millimeter in diameter, so they’re typically some of the first in the body to be affected by cardiovascular disease way before some of the larger arteries.
  • Symptoms of low testosterone can include lack of energy, erectile dysfunction, lack of motivation, difficulty losing fat, difficulty gaining muscle, lack of libido, and more. While these can be due to low testosterone, they’re not always; they might also be due to some other issue. If you’re experiencing these, he recommends getting your testosterone checked to see if that’s the cause or not.
  • We discussed when guys should start seeing a urologist. Guys need to start routinely seeing the urologist for urologic related issues at age 50-55 for prostate cancer screening. If you have a family history of prostate cancer, you probably should start having prostate cancer screening at age 40, including yearly blood tests to measure PSA levels and a prostate exam. 
  • Despite what Nikki Minaj says, the COVID vaccine does not cause your testicles to swell, but there is evidence to show that COVID can impact the ability to get an erection. He reinforced that the vaccine is safe and the only surefire way to prevent contracting COVID.  

As we wrapped up, Dr. Bajic shared a profound quote. 

I asked him what he wanted all men to know and understand.

“A big thing to understand is that although they might not think that urinary and sexual function are important life threatening things that need to be addressed by a doctor, sometimes it really can be a sign of something more serious going on. These are all treatable things. So not only should you see a doctor because you want to improve those things, but also to make sure there’s not something more serious going on. 

I think with the increasing use of online telehealth platforms, awareness is spreading, but I think a lot of those services are not necessarily appropriately screening men. It’s not just ‘You have this issue and we just mail you a prescription for Viagra.’ We need to make sure we understand why instead of just putting a Band-Aid on it. Increasing awareness of how these conditions are related to overall health is the number one most important message that I want to convey.”

According to this year’s MENtion It campaign, men are starting to become more proactive in their health.

When I started reading these surveys in 2016, only about 60% of men were seeing their doctor every year. Now that number has jumped to 72%. Men also see healthcare professionals as their source of truth when it comes to health information, with the next most common sources being online research and friends and family. Take it from me, a doctor is much better than Dr. Google or that guy you went to high school with who thinks that he knows everything but couldn’t even pass high school science. 

When asked about specific topics, over 70% of men said they felt very comfortable discussing health risks and digestive issues, while that number dropped to 63% for mental health. Infertility and sexual issues were seen as very comfortable topics by about 50% of men, but this is all progress.

An interesting dichotomy popped up when comparing generational attitudes.

The general feeling is that Boomers are the worst, but they’re actually far better when it comes to taking care of their health. Boomers and Gen X are far more likely to go to the doctor than Millennials and Gen Z, with 19% of Millennials only visiting their primary care physician when something is wrong. The younger crowd cited issues with getting off from work as a major factor, but I also think this has to do with feelings of invincibility. 

The older crowd also feel a lot more comfortable discussing those aforementioned topics, which I find interesting. I have also seen my generation (and the one under mine) as being more open about their mental and physical health, but this campaign didn’t show that. I guess we Millennials are too busy ruining Applebee’s or eating avocado toast or something. 

Unsurprisingly, the younger generations are more comfortable in using digital services, such as telehealth and direct to consumer online health sites, than their more technologically challenged elders. I’m not surprised. I’ve seen my dad try to use the Internet. Enough said. 

Telehealth has seen a huge uptick during the pandemic. 

Two-thirds of men have used digital health services in the past 12 months. Furthermore, 29% of men say they would prefer to have an online visit with a doctor/healthcare professional to discuss a health issue rather than an in-person visit, due to the following reasons:

  • It’s easier to fit virtual visits into my schedule (46%)
  • It’s faster (45%)
  • It’s more comfortable talking about health issues in the privacy of my own home (43%) 
  • It’s easier to access different kinds of care (37%) 

I can understand and agree with many of these points. I personally have continued with telehealth therapy for many of the same reasons. Instead of having to get in my car, drive across town, talk, and come home, I can do it on my couch. It saves me time and energy, while also meeting my needs. Plus, after shifting to working from home, I like to leave my house as little as possible. Call me a grumpy old man, but home life is the best life…. Maybe I am a Boomer?

Another interesting point was a sensitive topic. 44% of men say they prefer discussing sexual health issues with a doctor online or over the phone due to being too embarrassed to do it in-person. In my opinion, if telehealth gets guys to talk to a doctor, then I’ll take it. 

My takeaway from the 2021 MENtion It survey is that things are getting better. 

I always look forward to reading their full report, and I encourage you to do the same. Despite generational issues and some “taboo” topics, it appears that men are taking a more active role in their health. This is why I do the work that I do, and I hope to see next year’s survey results continue this upwards trend.

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