Man flu

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Man flu is a phrase that refers to the idea that men, when they have a cold, exaggerate and claim they have the flu. While a commonly-used phrase in much of the English speaking world, there is a continuing discussion over the scientific basis.[1][2]

Popular culture[edit]

A web-based survey of readers of Nuts magazine in late 2006 stirred interest in this notion,[3] which was criticised as unscientific and unreliable.[4][5] It has been suggested that such exaggeration is possibly just as prevalent in women. This condition can only truly be called "man flu" when the sufferer in question has a partner from whom he hopes to solicit extra attention to care for his supposedly grievous symptoms. When the sufferer is alone then the condition can only be the common cold or flu.[6][7] Regardless of any scientific basis, the idea behind man flu has been present in UK popular culture, and has even been the source of controversy when used in advertising.[8]

Scientific basis[edit]

A study published in 2009 was reported by The Daily Telegraph as supporting the concept that "man flu" does not exist,[9] but many believe that the media were misunderstanding or misrepresenting the science.[10] The study had nothing to do with the flu (the experiment was related to bacterial, not viral, infection) and was performed on genetically modified mice rather than human beings, so the results are not necessarily applicable to humans.[11][12]

A 2010 survey by the Office for National Statistics reported on by the BBC World Service suggested that women call in sick twice as often as men do.[13] However, absence from work is not always related to a woman's illness as women are ten times more likely than men to stay at home to care for sick children,[14] and more likely to be caring for elderly relatives.[15]

According to researchers at Cambridge University, evolutionary factors may have led women to develop more rigorous immune systems than men due to differing reproductive strategies.[16] In addition, a 2011 study conducted at the University of Queensland suggests that female hormones (such as oestrogens) aid pre-menopausal women in fighting infections, but the protection is lost after menopause.[17]

Recent medical review[edit]

In the Christmas edition of The BMJ, a review of existing research found some evidence to indicate that men were more frequently hospitalized and had higher influenza-related death rates than women. Also, that the underlying cause could be evolutionary hormonal gender-differences affecting the immune system.

Further, the study points out that while "man flu" is known worldwide, no research has been conducted to specifically define the phenomenon — a situation which could lead to males receiving less medical attention than their condition actually merits.[18]

The BMJ Christmas article is written in a light-hearted way in keeping with the traditions of its Christmas edition but the science is real.[19] An obvious spoof article in the same edition of the journal questioned whether the children's television cartoon Peppa Pig was responsible for inappropriate use of primary care resources and called into question Dr Brown Bear's Fitness to Practice.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alleyne, Richard (2010-03-24). "Man flu is no myth as scientists prove men suffer more from disease". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 4 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "Man Flu: A Man's Illness?". ABC News Medical Unit. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "'Man flu' really exists". Archived from the original on 5 January 2007. Retrieved 8 February 2007. 
  4. ^ Boynton, Petra (2006). "Are reports of "man flu" just Nuts?". BMJ. 333 (7578): 1128.1–1128. doi:10.1136/bmj.39041.590556.59. PMC 1661725Freely accessible. 
  5. ^ Boynton, Petra (2006-11-14). "'Man Flu' – manufacturing an illness to sell a magazine". Retrieved 2007-02-08. 
  6. ^ "'Man flu' just as prevalent in women". The New Zealand Herald. 20 May 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2011. 
  7. ^ "'Man flu and other health myths'". 2007-10-01. 
  8. ^ "Boots advert should not have been made". Men's Health Forum. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  9. ^ Alleyne, Richard (2009-05-12). "Men succumb to manflu because women have stronger immune systems, claim scientists". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2009-05-23. 
  10. ^ Yeretssian, G; Doiron, K; Shao, W; Leavitt, B. R; Hayden, M. R; Nicholson, D. W; Saleh, M (2009). "Gender differences in expression of the human caspase-12 long variant determines susceptibility to Listeria monocytogenes infection". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 106 (22): 9016–20. doi:10.1073/pnas.0813362106. PMC 2690057Freely accessible. PMID 19447924. 
  11. ^ "media - Bad Science". Retrieved 2009-05-23. 
  12. ^ "Man flu: real or myth?". NHS. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  13. ^ "Women 'take more sick leave'". BBC News. London. 2010-03-24. Retrieved 2010-03-24. 
  14. ^ "Who Stays Home When the Kids Are Sick?". The Atlantic. Boston. 2014-10-28. Retrieved 2015-07-10. 
  15. ^ "Women Are More Likely to Care for Aging Parents—And Drop Out of the Workforce to Do It". Boston: Slate. 2013-11-21. Retrieved 2015-07-10. 
  16. ^ Restif, O; Amos, W (2010). "The evolution of sex-specific immune defences". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 277 (1691): 2247–55. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.0188. PMC 2880154Freely accessible. PMID 20335214. 
  17. ^ Carroll, Melanie L; Yerkovich, Stephanie T; Pritchard, Antonia L; Davies, Janet M; Upham, John W (2010). "Adaptive immunity to rhinoviruses: Sex and age matter". Respiratory Research. 11: 184. doi:10.1186/1465-9921-11-184. PMC 3024249Freely accessible. PMID 21194432. 
  18. ^ Sue, Kyle (2017). "The science behind 'man flu'". BMJ. 359: j5560. doi:10.1136/bmj.j5560. PMID 29229663. 
  19. ^ "The Best of the British Medical Journal's Goofy Christmas Papers". Https:. Retrieved December 27, 2017. 
  20. ^ Bell, Catherine (2017). "Does Peppa Pig encourage inappropriate use of primary care resources?". BMJ. 359: j5397. doi:10.1136/bmj.j5397. PMID 29229662.