A systematic review of the factors associated with delays in medical and psychological help-seeking among men

4 min


Many studies have documented low rates of medical help-seeking among men. This has been associated with poorer health outcomes in men such as diagnosis delay, higher mortality rates, and increased burden on the healthcare system.

Lower rates of help-seeking are particularly pronounced when it comes to mental health and emotional well-being. While many studies have examined male help-seeking barriers there has been no systematic review and synthesis of the literature conducted.

Such a review could inform the development of evidence-based strategies to facilitate prompt help-seeking among men.


The aim of this paper was to systematically review both qualitative and quantitative studies examining professional medical help-seeking barriers in men.


The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews (PRISMA) guidelines were used to conduct the systematic review. Papers that used either qualitative or quantitative methodologies to identify at least one medical help-seeking barrier in men with regards to mental or physical health were included in the review.

Four medical databases were searched (PsycINFO, Medline, Embase, PsychARTICLES). Only papers written in English were included.


Forty-one papers were included in the review; 22 were quantitative (questionnaire-based) and 19 were qualitative (focus groups and semi-structured interviews).

The total number of participants across all studies was 27 787 aged between 15 and 80+ years of age. While the studies were carried out in various countries (e.g., Japan, Ghana, Australia), the overall sample was predominantly White males.

Numerous help-seeking barriers—divided into psychological factors and contextual factors by the reviewers—were identified.

Four themes, appearing in multiple papers using various methodologies and samples, were worthy of special attention:


Overall, the findings of this review suggest that adherence to traditional masculinity norms reduces men’s medical help-seeking behaviour.

Health organisations and individual health professionals need to take into account the current misconceptions around masculinity and health when considering policy and practice related to the health care of men.

Further, even though there are limitations inherent with short consultation times, health professionals need to demonstrate sensitivity to their patients’ individual needs and ensure information is provided in an easy-to-understand manner.

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