Men are notorious for avoiding or outright skipping their doctor’s appointments. It has been well documented in TV shows, movies, and all other forms of media in the United States as well as globally. However, it isn’t just a fictional trope – a recent Cleveland Clinic survey confirmed that 65% of men delay as long as possible to see their doctor when experiencing symptoms or injury. This medical delinquency also extends into behavioral health – in one study, only 37% of men with mental illness received treatment compared to 51% of women.
Men are traditionally taught to tough it out from a young age, creating a stigma around seeking help for health conditions and injuries. In addition to the sociocultural hurdles preventing men from practicing positive health habits, another roadblock for men is convenience. In the same Cleveland Clinic survey, 61% said they would consider going to their annual physical if seeing the doctor was more convenient. Two later-stage startups that are creating an innovative disruption in healthcare and have solved the convenience problem, Ro and Manscaped, have both achieved unicorn status during the pandemic – proving the demand for more simple and discrete men’s health solutions.
Despite these two companies' progress in men's health, there are still many remaining unmet needs in the men's health space. Here are some early-stage startups focusing on digital health trends to reverse the stigma of men’s, transgender men’s, and non-binary individuals’ healthcare and make these solutions more accessible to patients and customers globally.
Mirroring Ro’s verticalized business model, comprehensive direct-to-consumer men’s health solutions are now popping up globally. These companies utilize telehealth visits to prescribe medications for hair loss, sexual dysfunction, mental health, skincare, and more. In addition to telehealth, some offer non-prescription skincare and more holistic solutions such as nutritional supplements. This business model acknowledges more touchpoints in men’s lives instead of focusing on one particular area of expertise for more episodic care. Mosh out of Australia is one example offering a wide range of treatments (hair loss, sexual dysfunction, weight loss, and more) for their patients, while Charles in France and Optimale in the UK are also building out similar multimodal solutions.
Sexual health and fertility
Sexual health startups offer convenient solutions for all aspects of men’s sex lives, from erectile dysfunction to fertility to hormone health. Countless surveys and studies have confirmed the negative effect of erectile dysfunction (ED) on relationships and sex lives; however, seeking treatment can bring feelings of shame or frustration. The startups in this space allow men to obtain prescriptions or advice directly from their homes. A prevalent model in this space used by companies such as Hone Health and Bastion includes various forms of at-home testing (either an at-home visit by a practitioner or self-collection of samples by patients) followed by a telehealth visit, and finally, a personalized plan.
Hone Health offers hormone optimization via a tiered subscription approach, while Bastion offers one-time payments for assessments and 12 months of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) treatment. Posterity Health offers comprehensive fertility options, including fertility preservation as an option for gender-diverse individuals. Coral is an app offering a freemium model that integrates couples coaching, exercises, and access to content on taboo sexual topics. Finally, Pera Labs combines AI with fertility treatments and assists couples with sperm analysis and selection.
While statistics state that men grapple less with mental illnesses than women, those who struggle with behavioral health issues are less likely to seek help. Two startups are working to meet men in a more comfortable format online — a medium that has helped spark more conversations on mental health in health systems. One startup, Tethr, uses a community-based approach to mental health. Tethr’s app allows men to connect individually via “Accountability Pods” or participate in forums to mimic a Reddit-style way to gather advice. Another startup, Manual, is using forums moderated by experts in addition to modern and relatable educational videos created to reach their target market – young men in college – so that they can start practicing better mental hygiene earlier in life.
According to the NIH, men have higher rates of use or dependence on illicit substances and alcohol than women. According to one study, the COVID-19 pandemic also increased excessive drinking by 21%. In addition to the many non-alcoholic beverage startups that have popped up post-pandemic, startups like Monument and Alavida are offering telehealth online alcohol treatment. Ion offers a wearable for discreet alcohol monitoring and tracking, while Kyros provides the first “sobriety management platform.”
Skincare and wellness
Despite the popularity of men’s care solutions increasing before the pandemic, spending hours looking at oneself on Zoom all day accelerated the trend: the men’s care market is set to reach $276B by 2030. Men are interested in simple and functional products of their own, and gone are the days when men would have to steal their girlfriend’s or wife's products. While many large consumer packaged goods companies are developing men-specific skincare and cosmetics, many startups are also entering the space. Wolf Project offers uncomplicated skincare options for men ranging from eye patches, masks, cleansers, and moisturizers. Frontman is targeting Gen Z men with skincare options in addition to a simple concealer for acne. Lastly, War Paint is a full line of sleek and simple men’s cosmetics. More companies are also focusing on genderless or unisex skincare and makeup options.
Future of men’s health
One startup, Live Chair Health, is meeting African American men in their own communities at trusted barbershops to monitor their health. It also shows the potential of integrating healthcare into men’s everyday lives as another strategy. The movement towards a healthier lifestyle is increasingly vital to all genders and a significant investment opportunity; however, as men have lagged in healthcare and wellness, this opportunity is even more pronounced. With all the startups dedicated to the future of men’s health and more innovation, men’s health is undergoing a significant transformation. The convenience, simplicity, and discrete nature of these solutions will allow more men and those who are gender diverse to embrace their own health, eliminate taboos, and eventually turn to more preventative measures.