New research explores whether men really are overreacting
By Katie Jones
If you’ve ever ridiculed your partner’s claims he has ‘man flu’, it turns out one doctor is on their side.
After growing tired of hearing men’s gripes described as an overstatement, a Canadian academic explored whether men really do experience worse flu symptoms than women. His conclusion, published in the British Medical Journal, found that the highly-debated concept “is potentially unjust”. Those sniffles might not be an exaggeration after all.
Dr Kyle Sue, a clinical assistant professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, studied relevant research and found evidence that adult men have a higher risk of hospital admission and higher rates of influenza-associated deaths than women, regardless of underlying disease.
Dr Sue also found that men are also more susceptible to complications with many respiratory diseases. Further evidence suggested that men suffer more from viral respiratory illness than women because they have a weaker immune system.
“Men may not be exaggerating symptoms but have weaker immune responses to viral respiratory viruses, leading to greater morbidity and mortality than seen in women,” Dr Sue wrote in the BMJ.
He added that further research is needed to clarify other aspects of man flu. However, there might be an evolutionary benefit to a less robust immune system. Dr Sue said that it has allowed men to invest their energy in other biological processes, such as growth, secondary sex characteristics and reproduction.
When it comes to saving energy, Dr Sue recommends: “Lying on the couch, not getting out of bed, or receiving assistance with activities of daily living”.
He added: “Perhaps now is the time for male friendly spaces, equipped with enormous televisions and reclining chairs, to be set up where men can recover from the debilitating effects of man flu in safety and comfort.”
Not everyone is convinced, though.
“While there are people who believe that “man flu” is an actual disease, and some men (and women) genuinely believe it is the reason they are unwell, there is little science to back this up,” Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, commented.
She also admitted: “There has been some research to suggest respiratory tract infections, as they are known, can present more severely in men than women and the best advice for anyone affected is to rest at home, drink plenty of fluids and to take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol, if necessary.”