Study: Men who shack up less likely to get checkups

NEW YORK — Tie the knot, see a doc? A new study says men are more likely to get medical checkups if they’re married rather than just living with a woman.

And, surprisingly, more single guys see the doctor than men with live-in girlfriends.

The researchers said they’re not sure why there’s a difference: the report released Wednesday is based on a survey and it didn’t ask why the men did or didn’t have an exam.

“Perhaps wives have more influence than girlfriends,” suggested lead author, Stephen Blumberg of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study stems from a conversation Blumberg had with his father, an Atlanta health consultant who works with men and their families. Joe Blumberg shared his observations about who goes to the doctor, and his son looked to see what an ongoing CDC survey revealed on the topic.

The report used responses from about 24,000 men in 2011-2012. They were asked about their relationship status, whether they’d been to a doctor in the previous year and if they’d had screenings for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Screenings can detect health problems early and head off the development of killer conditions like heart disease. Studies have shown that married men live longer, and researchers have speculated that it’s probably because wives prod their husbands to see the doctor and look after their health.

Younger men tend to live with women more often than older men, according to census data. But the researchers saw the same pattern for getting checkups in two age groups.

Among men ages 18 to 44, the survey found, about 69 percent of the married men had been to a doctor in the last year. That compares to 62 percent of single guys and 57 percent of men with live-in partners, the vast majority of them women.

For the 45 to 64 age group, it was 83 percent for married men; 74 percent for singles and about 69 percent of those shacking up.

The researchers saw the same pattern for the screenings tests.

Joe Blumberg, a study co-author, said women living with men may be more reluctant than wives to ask personal health questions or prod men to see a doctor.

Andy Hughes, a 47-year-old Atlanta carpenter, put it more succinctly.

“Marriage implies the right to browbeat your husband,” said Hughes, who never married but has lived with women twice — including his current relationship.

He said he, too, was better about seeing a doctor when he was single but that was largely due to getting a good job with health benefits.

The elder Blumberg said single guys may take better care of their health because they’re “still in the game,” trying to be healthy and attractive to prospective mates and reading men’s health magazines. He offered another theory: Some men may slack off about seeing a doctor after they move in with a girlfriend.

“If they go to the doctor, now they’re going to have to explain why they went to the doctor” and they still aren’t comfortable sharing those details, he said.

Hughes said he had that issue in the past.

“It boils down to how people relate to one another and what they’re willing to share. Health is pretty personal,” he said.

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