Author: Stewart Cornelius 

As I hurtle towards being 45 years of age this year, I received a letter through my door from my GP offering me an NHS Check Up. I scanned through the letter quickly and saw words in bold such as, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, stroke and dementia.  

Despite having completed no medical training in my life, I quickly diagnosed that I had not got any of those conditions and therefore did not need the check-up. After all, I felt ‘alright’.  

Of course, I eat too much since working from home, I certainly don’t exercise enough anymore due to my dodgy ankle caused by an old football injury and granted, I have needed a new wardrobe a size up after the pandemic. I can feel harassed occasionally too as a dad of 4 boys whilst working full time and I confess; I do use a glass of wine or a cheeky beer to take the edge of a particularly frantic day.  But otherwise, I’m ‘alright’.  

One week later after receiving that letter I was asked to write a piece for Men’s Health Week, and it got me thinking.

What makes me think that the rigours of my often chaotic and busy lifestyle would not impact me and my health?

Why do I feel infallible given the examples listed above? Why would I be any different to anyone else? I mean, everyone is ‘alright’ until they are not ‘alright’, right?  

I started to read up. Despite my lack of medical training, it turns out I can diagnose myself with a very serious condition. Apparently, the reason for this sense of infallibility is I have Superhero Syndrome. Now, the good news is, I’ve always wanted to be a superhero since I was 5. The bad news is, at age 45, this is not a good thing.  

Dr Tisha Rowe (founder of an online health service) stated that Superhero syndrome is men wanting to see themselves as forever strong and capable of handling anything. They see going to the doctor as a weakness and men don’t like being perceived as weak or vulnerable.1 I would have to agree. I have only been to the doctors once in 3 years. I wear that statistic like a badge of honour – ‘Look how strong and healthy I am’.   

Despite believing I am the superhero Batman, I am actually more like Bruce Wayne (albeit without the money, good looks and playboy lifestyle). I am just an average man who is as mortal and vulnerable as anyone else when it comes to their health.

I am not alone in this superhero syndrome either. This is a widespread phenomenon amongst us men. Research shows in the UK that ‘men tend to go to their GP a third less than their female counterparts on an annual basis. They also go to the pharmacist only 4 times a year in comparison to 18 times a year for women.’2 

Worse still ‘men are more likely to die earlier than women and, out of the 15 leading causes of death, men are worse off than women in nearly every aspect.’ 3 

But why do men create this superhero syndrome and leave their wellbeing to chance with potentially shattering consequences? It would seem, ‘men simply aren’t taking full advantage of the support to maintain good health which is available free of charge on their doorsteps,’ Mike Holden, Chief Executive of the National Pharmacy Association. ‘Men tend to be driven by what they see as their immediate healthcare needs and focus rather less on long-term wellbeing.’4 The are other reasons too. A survey run by Orlando Health found that most men avoided visits to their doctor because they were ‘too busy.’5 

For some people, there can be a lot of fear surrounding a visit to the doctors. The visit itself can cause anxiety but people also worry about discovering something wrong with them.

What’s more, some people may feel uncomfortable about the prospect of examinations such as prostate checks. Also, in general women are better at discussing their health than men which means they are more aware of their symptoms, and they are more pro-active about improving their health.  

In summary, because we are busy, we can get anxious and we are not good at talking, we would rather delude ourselves into thinking we are a superhero then takes steps to enjoy a long, healthy and fulfilling life. That’s very odd isn’t?  

So, what can we do about it?  

Well, the good news is, it’s a really simple medical procedure that all men can take. Get past all the nonsense in your head about being busy, worried or uncomfortable and book a check-up at your GP. That is all we have to do. Once a year.  

That’s the cure for this condition which if left unattended, could have devastating consequences for your life as well as those of your friends and family. It’s not a big ask really to make sure you really are ‘alright’ is it? 

The theme for Men’s Health Week 2022 is #ManMOT. This is to encourage men just like you and me, to take notice of what’s going on in their minds and body’s. Please book that appointment with your GP now. 

Please click here to learn more about Men’s Health Week