A review of scientific literature suggests those who believe ‘man flu’ is more intense than the female version have some evidence to back up their views.
An article published by a Canadian physician in the British Medical Journal reviews medical studies going back to the 17th Century on the role of gender in influenza.
Dr. Kyle Sue, a family physician based in Arviat, Nunavut, found studies on mice and humans suggesting flu symptoms in men are often more acute.
It also noted that a seasonal influenza study from 2004 to 2010 in Hong Kong found men had higher rates of hospital admission, and a decade-long American observational study that ended in 2007 suggested men had higher rates of flu-related deaths in comparison to women.
Sue’s study also considered the hypothesis that the hormone testosterone may have a relationship to influenza by acting to suppress the male immune system.
He notes that there are numerous potential weaknesses in his review, including that it doesn’t consider other influences on the flu such as the rates of smoking and whether men are more or less likely to take preventive measures against the flu.