Men Aren't Bigger Babies when They're Sick After All, Says New UK Survey

Beth Greenfield, Shine Staff
Healthy Living

True or false: When men get the flu they are big babies--way bigger babies than women could ever be.

Wrong! It's false. At least according to one recent study of the idea.

A new UK study of 5,000 people says it has debunked the concept of "man-flu," a long-held belief that paints men as major whiners who claim to have the flu when they've only got a cold.

"The truth is, at the moment, we have absolutely no evidence of man-flu," reported London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine research fellow Dr. Alma Adler on a podcast discussing her ongoing UK Flusurvey.

Adler, along with other researchers, base this conclusion on a section of the survey that asks if people are experiencing various symptoms, ranging from congestion and sneezing to fever and chills, and then asking what they feel is causing the symptoms, and also how awful they feel on a scale of 1 to 100, 100 being the worst.

"We thought, well maybe men just experience it worse, and that's why we introduced the 'man-flu' question," she explains, speaking over an image of the charted results, which look equal in all categories. "So you can see, in males and females, there's really no difference."

Women tended to report slightly more symptoms, Adler said, but added, "This is most likely due to the fact that the highest risk factor for getting flu is being around children, and women generally may be around children more often."

But the findings, interestingly enough, go against those of yet another recent British claim. That one, reported the Telegraph, came from Durham University neuroscientist Amanda Ellison, who said that men do indeed suffer more from cold symptoms because they have extra temperature receptors in the brain.
"So men feel rougher when they have a temperature--and if they complain they feel rough, then maybe they're right," says Dr. Ellison, author of Getting Your Head Around the Brain, which focuses on the difference between the minds of men and women.

It was the sweeping Flusurvey, though, that's been getting most of the attention in the UK press. Especially since it revealed another surprise: "absolutely zero" connection between contracting flu and using public transportation, said co-researcher and professor John Edmunds in the official podcast.

Still, it's the study's lack of evidence for man-flu that's bound to really have everyone disappointed--women for not being able to cry superior in this regard, and men for having no basis to demand extra-special babying when sick.

"At the moment, there's absolutely no evidence for man-flu. I'm really sorry to tell you that," Adler reiterated. "We're probably going to be the least popular people in Britain."

And the world.