Man flu IS real (claims man) – and he’s calling for “male-friendly spaces” to help men recover in peace
Tired of being accused of over-reacting, a doctor in Canada has sought to prove if so-called “man flu” really does exist.
After analysing the results of previous studies and scientific papers, Dr Kyle Sue has determined that there is evidence to suggest men suffer worse than women.
What’s more, Dr Sue even concludes, incredibly, that there should be “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.”
“Man flu” is a somewhat derogatory term used to describe how a man is incapable of dealing with cold and flu symptoms as well as a woman. It’s an accepted term, according to the Collins English Dictionary, and its official definition is listed as: “a case of the common cold as suffered by a man, implying that he is exaggerating the debilitating effects of the illness.”
Having faced such criticisms in the past, clinical assistant professor Dr Sue from Memorial University, Newfoundland, wanted to see if there was any basis in the claims that men may suffer more with certain conditions than women.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, Dr Sue found evidence that adult men have a higher risk of hospital admission, and are more likely to die from influenza-related illnesses compared with women in the same age groups.
In particular, data from 2004 to 2010 for seasonal influenza in Hong Kong showed that adult men had a higher risk of hospital admission, while in a US study of flu-related deaths between 1997 and 2007, men featured more regularly than women. This was true regardless of underlying heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory system disease, and renal disease.
When it comes to acute respiratory diseases, men were found to be more susceptible to complications, and more at risk of death. Plus, Dr Sue found evidence that supports men suffering more from viral respiratory illness than women because they have a “less robust immune system.”
Elsewhere, another study looked at cells from 63 healthy people grouped according to age and sex. These cells were infected with rhinovirus and those cultured from pre-menopausal women had a stronger immune response than those from men of the same age. This difference was not seen when post-menopausal women were compared with men of the same age, suggesting hormones play a role in a woman’s ability to fight illness more effectively.
But why? Well, one study concluded that “if males require testosterone for aggressive behaviour, selection for winning at the high-stakes game males play may override the cost of any immunosuppressive effects of the hormone.”
This suggests that reduced immunity is less important for men because males of many species are more likely to die from trauma before an infection kills them. In addition, women need to have stronger immune systems to tackle disease while pregnant.
Can the blame for man flu be shifted to the people who select these men as sexual partners rather than the men themselves?
Other academics studied agree that the male strategy of “live hard, die young” arising from stronger competition than among females has led to “less investment in immunity.”
Of course, this area of research needs more work. As Dr Sue points out, some of the study conclusions may have been limited by author bias and the differences in these studies “may not be representative of all respiratory viruses, and differences may be hidden within studies that did not stratify the various viruses or other differences between the sexes.”
Furthermore, the reviewed studies did not consider other differences between the sexes. For example, men have higher rates of smoking worldwide, and are less likely to take preventive care or go to the doctors when ill.
The majority of the peer-reviewed paper is written rather tongue-in-cheek, in what the BMJ calls a “light-hearted” tone, yet the claims don’t always land particularly well.
The conclusion, for example, calls for male-friendly spaces to be places where “men can recover from the debilitating effects of man flu in safety and comfort.” Dr Sue even goes as far as seemingly blaming women, with the line: “Can the blame for man flu be shifted to the people who select these men as sexual partners rather than the men themselves?”