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Men are twice as likely as women to binge drink and use illicit drugs at more than double the rate of women.

LINCOLN - With Men's Health Month drawing to a close, Nebraska physicians are underscoring the need for men of all ages to seek regular preventive and behavioral care, especially during times of crisis.

Dr. Tony Sun, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthCare in Nebraska, says annual checkups are critical for detecting potentially dangerous health issues early, when they're still treatable.

While in-person visits are optimal, Sun says telehealth or virtual visits have become an attractive alternative during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have found that could be a really effective way to see doctors," says Sun. "It makes it really convenient. Sometimes men don't like to see doctors because they can't take off from work."

Men in the U.S. die five years younger than women, on average, and are less likely to have health coverage. Just 76% of men had seen a doctor in the last year, compared with 92% of women.

Men also are more likely to be obese, and to participate in risky behavior such as smoking tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption.

The novel coronavirus pandemic, and its impact on local economies and incomes, is putting more stress on everyone. Sun points to research showing that men are less likely than women to ask for help, especially for depression.

He says stigma associated with mental health continues to be the biggest barrier for seeking assistance.

"Many are experiencing anxiety, and quite a bit of depression," says Sun. "By doing that, seeking out help, they're actually helping themselves."

Sun also recommends that more men wear masks covering both nose and mouth in public, especially in situations where it's tough to maintain at least six feet of social distancing. 

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