While it’s easy for dads and sons to talk about sports, work or the weather, when it comes to health issues, opening up may not be so simple. A new national survey by Cleveland Clinic suggests that today’s fathers with sons are looking to change that, especially the younger millennial generation.
When Cleveland Clinic surveyed more than 500 U.S. males over the age of 18, who are currently fathers or father figures to a boy, and who had a father and/or father figure growing up, about two-thirds (62 percent) reported wishing that their own father/father figure had talked to them more about health topics. In fact, about half (47 percent) said that they didn’t know about their family health history until they started to go to the doctor as an adult.
The survey was issued as part of Cleveland Clinic’s second annual educational campaign, “MENtion It,” which aims to address the fact that men often do not “MENtion” health issues or take steps to prevent them. According to the survey, there seems to be a conversation gap when it comes to talking about annual health exams, sex and urological health. Among those who speak about health with their father/father figure, only around one-third of men surveyed said their father discusses getting annual health exams (35 percent) with them, and even fewer discuss sex (28 percent) and urological health (23 percent).
“This survey shows that today’s fathers are ready to talk about health issues and concerns openly with their sons but many dads struggle on where to begin,” said Eric Klein, M.D., chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute. “Whether or not they learned to stay quiet from their own dad, we are trying to encourage men to break that tradition and let their sons know that they can come to them if they have a health issue or concern.”
Other Key Findings from the Survey
- Younger generations of fathers are significantly more likely to have a father/father figure that has/does talk to them about their health (Millennials: 84 percent vs. Baby Boomers: 48 percent).
- About one-third (32 percent) of fathers currently don’t talk to their family about their health issues and concerns because they don’t want to worry people.
- 85 percent of fathers who talk to their son(s) about health, started the conversation when their son(s) were under 16 years old.
When the survey results were broken down by ethnicity, Cleveland Clinic found the following:
- About half (50 percent) of African American fathers whose family doesn’t openly talk about health issues and concerns want to break the pattern with their families.
- About two-thirds (62 percent) of Hispanic fathers said that their family hid family health issues from them as a kid but talked to them more about it as an adult.
- About one-third (31 percent) of Hispanic fathers say they want to talk to their son about health topics but struggle to find the right words.
The survey findings illustrate how important it is to be aware of the health issues that run in the family since only about one-in-ten fathers (12 percent) surveyed indicated that they consult their dad regarding family health history.
“We know there are multiple genes that are inherited from your parents that increase your risk of getting certain diseases,” said Dr. Klein. “For example, having a father with prostate cancer doubles your risk of getting the same cancer. Knowing your family history is important because your doctor can determine if you’re at high risk of getting the same disease, and you can then be screened appropriately.”