Men’s Help-Seeking Behaviours in Preventative Health Services: The Role of Self-Conscious Emotions

Men’s Help-Seeking Behaviours in Preventative Health Services

Project dates: 2017 - 2018

This Masters research program qualitatively investigated the influence of masculine identities and self-conscious emotions on the use of preventative health services, specifically the uptake of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program’s screening kit by males aged 50-74 years.

Why is this important?

Bowel cancer screening is effective in the early detection and prevention of cancer for men and women aged between 50 and 74 years. However, colorectal cancer was the third most common cancer diagnosed in Queensland in 2011 and accounted for 10% of all cancer deaths in 2010; with the incidence and death rates from colorectal cancer higher for males than female (Queensland Health 2014). Although this group periodically receive free bowel screening kits, Queensland’s overall participation in bowel cancer screening is low, particularly for males with a participation rate of only 33.4% compared to females at 37.7% (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015). The higher incidence rates and lower participation among men aged 50-74 highlights the need to further understand barriers to using the simple and efficient bowel cancer screening tool.

Existing research has demonstrated that men often think the use of the bowel screening kit is difficult, embarrassing and takes time and money, and are more likely to participate if they are confident in the process and know others who use it as well. Self-conscious negative emotions, such as embarrassment, shame and guilt, are present for men when seeking help. Men view illness as a threat to their masculine identity and are reluctant to seek help from health professionals or access health services, viewing the act as “unmanly”. However, men also have higher levels of self-compassion when they have a lower masculine norm adherence, suggesting that masculinity affects male self-care and help-seeking behaviour.

What did we do?

Queensland Health has supported the research project enabling data collection, through focus group interviews with 39 Queensland mature men, in conjunction with concept development research for the recent Queensland Health campaign: Make No.2 your No.1 Priority. Archetype theory informed data collection through the use of 12 Jungian male archetypes employed for marketing objectives by Mark and Pearson (2001): The Hero, The Outlaw, The Innocent, The Explorer, The Thinker, The Magician, The Lover, The Comedian, The Caregiver, The Creator, The Ruler and The Regular Guy.  The Queensland Health campaign features Shane Jacobson, who encapsulates The Regular Guy.

What did we find out?

The findings of this research will help inform future social marketing initiatives targeting men’s help-seeking behaviours including Queensland Health’s bowel cancer screening campaign. See publications for more information about results and findings.

Chief Investigators


About the Project

Make No.2 your No 1 priority

The Queensland Health campaign encouraging uptake of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program kit.


Tough but not terrific: Value destruction in men’s health – Project Summary (Click image to enlarge)