JointHealth™ express   July 20, 2011

Where Have All The Good Men Gone?

Arthritis Researchers Need More than Just A Few Good Men for Current Studies

Researchers in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario are experiencing great difficulty in recruiting males to take part in interview-based research studies. In one recent study conducted at the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, titled ‘Early Inflammatory Arthritis Help-Seeking Experience - ERAHSE’, less than 3% of volunteers were men. Participants were asked to share stories of how they sought help during the early stages of arthritis. Results were almost entirely grounded in female experience, which left many questions surrounding how men dealt with bone and joint disease unanswered.

One important implication of the low number of males taking part is that researchers are unable to develop their understanding of challenges that presently face men in seeking care. Given that researchers have greater access to evidence gathered from female volunteers, recommendations on arthritis care risk being geared toward the needs of women. More than this, researchers are restricted in developing effective means to reach male patients and support them to initiate prompt medical consultation.

”One male participant interviewed in our pilot study on help-seeking in early arthritis shrugged off the onset of symptoms, as well as advice from his wife and daughter to visit a health professional, preferring instead to tolerate the painful swelling in his joints”, said the Centre’s Affiliated Scientist, Dr. Anne Townsend. Many studies have shown that men’s attitude to help-seeking is driven by ‘macho constraints’, which often include denying vulnerability, emphasizing heroism and taking risks that put their health in jeopardy. Again, current levels of male participation in research restrict researchers in their ability to speak to these kinds of social considerations.

Underlying researchers’ findings of male ‘underusage’ of the healthcare system is a concern that fewer visits to the doctor and delays in getting timely advice may decrease men’s chances for early detection, treatment and prevention of disease. For people with rheumatoid arthritis, for example, early diagnosis and access to treatment can prove crucial in preventing irreversible joint damage, as well as premature death as a result of further damage to other organs including the heart and lungs.

Current studies at the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada seek to tackle the shortage of knowledge on how men manage early symptoms and illness, but researchers need more men to volunteer. So ask your husbands, fathers, brothers and boyfriends to take part. The Centre is a leading patient-oriented research facility that aims to improve the lives of people with arthritis through research. To get involved, visit or call 604-871-4572.