As previously discussed, men are less likely to seek routine health exams than women. American researchers are quick to point out that use of preventative care is lower among non-white populations, and many of the speculated reasons are cultural. For example, Hunter et al (2007) point to denial, machismo, and fatalism as three main barriers to Mexican American men seeking preventative health care. Jenkins et al (1996) examine the idea that traditional beliefs and preference for non-Western medicine may influence choices among Vietnamese immigrants, but find that these are not barriers to access. However, Johnson et al (2004) suggest that it is not a belief specific to any particular culture, but the perception of racism in the medical community that is a barrier to access. Johnson et al's survey found that African American, Hispanic, and Asian subjects all reported the belief that they would receive better health care and fairer treatment if they were white. Johnson et al point out that there were no significant gender differences within ethnic groups.
The difference in health-care seeking behavior appears to be true across cultures, which renders arguments that it is based in a specific cultural belief (e.g. "machismo") fairly dubious. Are the beliefs about gender roles so universal, regardless of the cultural context, that the effect is the same? It seems to me more likely that there is a habitual difference in health care needs. Women develop health-care seeking habits earlier and more consistently than men, as related to gynecological and obstetric care. I would be interested to see whether there is a difference between mothers and non-mothers in health-care seeking behaviors.