The term "man flu" has gained popularity over the last few years. The cheeky saying refers to men who act as though their common illnesses affect them so badly that it might just be the end of the world.
Women worldwide have been rolling their eyes at their man flu-stricken husbands, but research shows that it might not all be in mens' heads.
Sicknesses may affect men more negatively than women
Kyle Sue, clinical assistant professor in family medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland, set out to discover the science behind the term. His findings were published here.
But Sue didn't conduct any new research. All he did was excavate as much existing research on gender-related illness as he could. His motives become apparent as you read his findings:
"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," he wrote.
Sue noticed a few interesting trends.
He found some research on mice showing that the immune response in female mice is higher than that of male mice. The research attributes this to hormonal differences between the sexes. But that's just mice, right? Humans are very different.
When it comes to man flu, the human research seems to favor your bed-ridden husband. Sorry, ladies. Your man may very well deserve the sympathy he's been looking for.
Data from Hong Kong report that men are at a "higher risk of hospital admission" due to influenza.
In the United States there were more flu-related deaths in men than women between 1997 and 2007.
Sue cites even more research showing that women respond better to vaccinations than men do. Testosterone may be to blame, as research indicates it may be doing more harm than good to mens' immune systems. This seems to parrallel the studies done on mice (previous section) indicating that the male immune system very well may be weaker than that of their female counterparts.
Sue does concede that there are some shortcomings in the research he collected. He says author bias and some low-quality research may play a role in skewing his conclusions, and more research is definitely called for.
But until some brave soul conducts that further research, it might be a good idea for some skeptical wives out there to give us husbands the benefit of the doubt.
Sue concludes, "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."
So, next time your husband acts like he's coming down with a seemingly apocalyptic cold, it might be true.