Open Access Research article

Services just for men? Insights from a national study of the well men services pilots

Flora CG Douglas1*, Joe Greener2, Edwin van Teijlingen3 and Anne Ludbrook4

Author Affiliations

1 The Rowett Institute of Health and Nutrition, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

2 Department of Social Work, Care & Justice, Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UK

3 Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health, University of Bournemouth, Bournemouth, UK

4 Health Economic Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:425  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-425

Published: 1 May 2013



Men continue to have a lower life expectancy in most countries compared to women. Explanations of this gendered health inequality tend to focus on male risk taking, unhealthy lifestyle choices and resistance to seeking help from health services. In the period 2005–2008 the Scottish Government funded a nationwide community health promotion programme aimed at improving men’s health, called Well Men Service Pilots (henceforth WMS).


This paper explores WMS programme users’ perspectives and experiences of health help-seeking against theories of hegemonic masculinity as explanatory frameworks for men’s behaviour around health and illness, and their views on a male-specific focus of the programme. It is based on a secondary analysis of 43 semi-structured interviews with men who engaged with this programme.


We challenge the commonly held notion of men as being disinterested in their health, and point to their heterogeneity in relation to their views about health and notions of health seeking. Moreover, men in our study were largely ambivalent about the need for gender specific services, despite their positive reactions to the programme in general.


Our findings question the utility of some theories of masculinity that posit somewhat simplistic explanations for men’s reluctance to seek help from formal healthcare services. They also suggest that providing male-specific health services may not significantly address men’s supposed reluctance to seek help from formal health services. Essentially, age seemed to be more important than gender. All encompassing health programmes are likely to fail to meet their health improvement objectives if they attempt to engage with men on the simple basis that they are male.

Men’s health; Health-seeking behaviour; Health promotion; Prevention; Primary care; Qualitative interviews