African-American men feel good about their health
The encouraging news from a recent survey of black men in the United States over 50 is that most feel good about their health. But more preventative care and better lifestyle choices could mean even better health, with lack of access and awareness hampering progress.
AARP conducted a nationwide survey of more than 1,200 black men to gain insight into their physical and mental health, experiences with health care providers, and views on disease prevention. Three-quarters (76%) of respondents gave a good, very good or excellent rating of their physical health; 83% gave the same positive ratings for their emotional health and 84% gave the same ratings for their mental health.
Healthy habits and mental health
Still, AARP discovered a few disconnects. The survey found that 80% of black men aged 50 and over are aware that eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight reduces their risk of serious health problems and most believe they eat well. Yet 42% admit to being overweight, only 24% meet weekly exercise recommendations and only 23% say they get enough sleep.
With age comes wisdom, in this case about what contributes to a healthy mind and body. The AAAP found greater awareness of the importance of diet, weight, physical activity and stress management among respondents over 50 compared to their younger cohorts.
When it came to smoking and drinking, it was the same thing. Respondents aged 50 and over said they were not heavy users of tobacco or alcohol; only about half had either in the past 30 days.
Mental health, on the other hand, seems to improve over time. Only 14% of black men over 50 reported high levels of stress, compared to 22% of men aged 40-49 and 23% of men under 40. The survey showed that older respondents were less concerned about depression. If help was needed, people aged 50 and over were more likely to say they would seek professional mental health treatment than younger men.
Collaborate with health care providers
When it comes to the important practice of seeing a health care provider regularly, 85% say they have visited a practice in the past year and most are satisfied with the quality of care they received. Those who did not go to the doctor regularly most often said that it was too expensive or that they did not need to do so.
Routine exams are more frequent in men as they age; 63% of men aged 50 and over report having it, compared to 38% of men aged 18 to 39. Yet research suggests that proactive conversations about preventative care measures often fail. For example, only 40% of respondents say they have discussed exercise and 36% have discussed diet with their doctor.
Additionally, sometimes important tests for blood pressure, blood sugar, and prostate health were not being done, which could lead to missed diagnoses. Yet 74% of older respondents recognize the value of recommended screening tests. When AARP asked respondents age 50 and older about their top health problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis and diabetes were mentioned the most. The leading causes of death for black men are heart disease and cancer, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Opportunities for improvement
About three-quarters of black men of all ages surveyed think family illnesses are preventable. However, survey questions about their knowledge of health topics, including how to manage various conditions, reveal a need for better education.
Family members have the greatest influence on black men seeking medical treatment. The survey shows that for 53% of respondents, a spouse or partner was the main influencer when it came to decisions to seek treatment, while 48% also say they listened to parents or close elders first. Listening to children, grandchildren and siblings was also high for 44% of respondents.
Based on its findings, AARP concluded that more research is needed, as well as resources and a focus on healthcare awareness for Black men. The report highlights the importance for black men to work with primary care physicians to develop individual care plans that emphasize prevention and lifestyle habits for better health.
Information on black men’s attitudes towards health was collected in an online survey conducted by ANR for AARP in October and November 2022. The national sample of 400 men aged 18-39 years, 408 men aged 40 to 49, 402 men aged 50 and over. , and 401 women aged 50 and over was weighted by age, education, race/ethnicity.
For more information, please contact Cheryl L. Lampkin at [email protected]. For media inquiries, contact external relations at [email protected].