Is "Man Flu" Really a Thing?

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Is it Man Flu?. Vincent Besnault/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Women across the globe have claimed for years that the men in their lives turn back into children every time they get sick, basically rendering them incapable of caring for themselves or even getting off the couch to get a drink of water. All of this while expecting that their wives or girlfriends won't miss a beat and keep the house running smoothly whether they are sick or not. At some point in the past few years, someone coined the term "man flu" to describe this phenomenon.

But is this so-called "man flu" an actual thing or just something a fed up wife dreamed up to describe her husband's overreaction every time he gets sick? Is this reaction to illness really more common among men than women? Or could it be that men actually get sick more often than women?

As it turns out, there is conflicting research when it comes to whether or not "man flu" is really a thing. It also depends on your definition and interpretation of the term. If you are looking at it solely from the perspective of "men complain about being sick more than women do," there may be some truth to it. Or if you are looking at "men actually get sick more than women do," there may be truth to that as well. But which category does "man flu" fall under? I guess the debate rages on.

Yes, It's Real

Several studies have been done that show that men do get sick more often than women because they have weaker immune systems.

If men are more prone to getting sick because their bodies are less able to fight off infections, then it's possible that men actually feel bad more often than women and share those complaints with the people close to them.

Dr. Amanda Ellison, a neuroscientist at Durham University has also reported that men have more temperature receptors in their brains, meaning they could feel worse when they get sick because those temperature receptors raise the body's temperature in an attempt to fight off the germs that are attempting to invade.

This is how and we why get fevers when we get sick and it's possible that if men have more of these receptors, that they could feel worse when they are ill. However, since pain and overall feelings are subjective, it's impossible to really compare one person to another.

No, It's Not

On the flip side of the argument, research in Australia has actually shown that men complain about being sick less often than women do. When studying over 1000 people, researchers found that men were reluctant to share their symptoms with their significant others, even less likely to tell friends and coworkers and often refused to take over the counter medications.

Of course, none of these studies looked at whether or not men exaggerate their symptoms when they are sick. Unfortunately, that's something that is difficult (if not impossible) to study, so we may never know.

Sources:

Scientific Basis for "Man Flu" 401 Nature Reviews Immunology 10, 290 (May 2010). 24 Aug 13.

Ellison, Amanda (2012). Getting your Head around the Brain. Palgrave Macmillan. 26 Aug 13.

Man Flu a Myth: New Study Shows Health and Science 10 Jun 13. The Australian. 26 Aug 13.

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