Man Flu Is Real, Study Says

by : Francesca Donovan on : 12 Dec 2017 10:18

The myth of man flu has plagued society’s gender stereotypes ever since the first sneeze. 


Luckily, the argument need clog up your already blocked pipes no more, because some scientists have proved so-called man flu is very, painfully real.

An article published in the British Medical Journal has argued the ever-mocked man flu might actually have some basis in science.

The study, conducted by Dr. Kyle Sue of the University of Newfoundland, looked at sickly souls in Hong Kong, and the difference between how men and women respond to seasonal influenza.


Apparently, using epidemiological data from 2004-10 for seasonal influenza in Hong Kong, the doctors discovered adult men had a higher risk of hospital admission if they contracted flu.

Troublingly, in a US observational study of influenza mortality from 1997 to 2007, men had higher rates of influenza associated deaths compared with women in the same age groups.


Moreover, studies of the flu vaccines in mice – a good indicator of human biological behaviour, apparently – and humans too indicate females respond better to the preventative measure than males.

The study also discusses the concept of an ‘immunity gap’, which is the idea the men simply have weaker immune systems than women.

Even the World Health Organization stresses ‘sex should be considered when evaluating influenza exposure and outcomes.’


‘Man flu’ is a term so ubiquitous it has been included in the Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries, with guys getting little to no sympathy from all angles.


Its definition, which has prompted arguments globally, is thus:

A cold or similar minor ailment as experienced by a man who is regarded as exaggerating the severity of the symptoms.

However, this study is the first of its kind to examine whether there is any existing scientific evidence to back up the groans and moans of men with maladies nationwide.


Dr Sue explained the common dismissal of man flu is ‘potentially unjust’, adding:

Tired of being accused of over-reacting, I searched the available evidence to determine whether men really experience worse symptoms and whether this could have any evolutionary basis.

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.


However, it’s not all doom and gloom for guys come the colder season. There are ways you can avoid the man flu.

Sue postulates much of what makes men ill could be in your own hands, with lifestyle factors affecting the rates of influenza in the data set they used.

For example, men worldwide are more like than women to be smokers. They are also less likely to seek medical intervention when they are sick.


There you have it: wrap up warm, demand a hot Ribena and a constant IV drip of chicken soup and stick Peaky Blinders on the telly – you, my man, are legitimately sick.

So whether it’s nature or (lack of) nurture, it seems this ever pervasive myth of man flu is just that: a myth.

Francesca Donovan

A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you've never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.

Topics: Health, Fitness


British Medical Journal
  1. British Medical Journal

    The science behind “man flu”