Dr. Kyle Sue, an assistant professor of family medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada conducted research to study if men were really worse off than women when they fall ill or if they’re just exaggerating their minor ailment derided as a case of the “man flu.”
The concept of the man flu is so well known there’s an entry about it in Oxford dictionary, where it’s defined as “a cold or similar minor ailment as experienced by a man who is regarded as exaggerating the severity of the symptoms.”
“The concept of man flu, as commonly defined, is potentially unjust. 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,” Sue says in his study.
Sue’s research, published in the BMJ medical journal, analyzed relevant studies related to respiratory diseases, the common cold, intensive care, the flu and viral infections. Symptoms between men and women were compared in each study. From his research, Sue concluded there was a gender “immunity gap.”
He found a man’s immune system may be naturally weaker than a woman’s, and with some illnesses, especially respiratory diseases, men are more susceptible to complications than women. This is because of hormonal differences in the genders. The masculine hormone testosterone suppresses the immune system, while the feminine hormone estradiol is immunoprotective.
Sue stressed this is “certainly not definitive,” and other scientists argue there is not enough evidence to conclude man flu exists.
As a remedy to the “man flu,” Sue suggests lots of rest.
“There are benefits to energy conservation when ill. Lying on the couch, not getting out of bed, or receiving assistance with activities of daily living could also be evolutionarily behaviours that protect against predators,” Sue (half) jokes in his study.
A possible treatment for the man flu? A man cave. “Perhaps now is the time for male friendly spaces,” Sue suggests, “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.”