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New research suggesting truth behind the 'man flu' sparks social media mockery

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
December 13, 2017, 1:29:05 PM EST

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As winter and cold weather rolls in, flu season also comes into play. With the increasing sickness, the term “man flu” also begins to more frequently appear.

The term is so well-known that Oxford Dictionary defined it in an entry.

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

While men are widely considered to embellish their symptoms in comparison to women, there are numerous studies that find some truth to the increased severity in their symptoms.

Flu shot October 2017

Neldia Dycus, the Central Region director of the Arkansas Department of Health, gives Gov. Asa Hutchinson a flu shot at the state Capitol building on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Kelly P. Kissel)


A new Canadian analysis, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Dec. 11, put the "man flu" in the spotlight this week.

Study Author Dr. Kyle Sue explores "whether men are wimps or just immunologically inferior."

"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," Sue stated in the study.

Sue analyzed studies related to respiratory diseases, the common cold, intensive care, the flu and viral infections. He compared the symptoms between men and women.

Sue found that a man's immune system may be naturally weaker than a woman's.

He found that with some illnesses, especially respiratory diseases, men are more susceptible to complications and exhibit a higher mortality.

Some studies suggest that women are more responsive to influenza vaccinations than men, according to the analysis.

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Seasonal influenza data from from 2004 to 2010 in Hong Kong suggested that when the flu strikes, adult men face a greater risk for being admitted to the hospital.

Another American study found that men seem to face a higher risk for dying from the flu than women, according to the analysis.

Hormonal differences in the genders most likely cause these results. The masculine hormone testosterone suppresses the immune system, while the feminine hormone estradiol is immunoprotective.

From his research, Sue concluded that there was a gender "immunity gap" but stressed that this is “certainly not definitive.”

The new research on the "man flu" has been met by mixed reviews on social media.

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