It's something we usually roll our eyes and think is a big fat joke, but surprisingly the majority of kiwi women actually believe "man flu" is real.

Nearly three quarters of New Zealand women think man flu exists - but they believe it is the term to describe the child like behaviour men resort to when ill and require extra pampering, according to a Vicks VapoRub survey of 1025 New Zealanders. This compared to just 16 per cent who said it was a myth.

And it seems women were more convinced by the so-called man flu than their partners as only 29 per cent of men thought may have suffered from man flu because they had a persistent cold or flu they could not shake.

But according to their female counterparts other symptoms of man flu were increased moaning which came with a spluttering cough, according to 20 per cent of women surveyed.


Some also reported their partners resorted to child like behaviour and more than a third were expected to wait on them hand and foot while they rested in bed or on the sofa. A quarter of women surveyed said they needed more attention than usual.

Comediene Urzila Carlson said men seemed to only operate on two settings when it came to illness. "It's either she'll be right on a bloody stump, where they really should be air lifted to safety they just walk it off or there is the other side where they have a bit of a sniffle but can't get off the couch."

However the genders were divided about who dealt with cold and flu better with a whopping 79 per cent of women saying they were better at coping with a cold or flu than their partners. While the men disagreed with just over half surveyed saying they were better at being sick.

University of Auckland associate professor in clinical psychology Dr Ian Lambie believed man flu was more sociological than medically-based. "Some men - not all - like to go back to their childhoods and be looked after and mothered and that sort of thing." He said the results did not surprise him and from time-time everyone wanted some type of special attention.

And while man flu is still the subject of such cynicism, overseas research has found women have a different immune system which could affect how they react differently to colds and flu. Ghent University in Belgium found women had a built-in advantage to their immune system. This was supported by an earlier study from Canada's McGill University which showed oestrogen boosts women's immune systems.

The online survey was carried out in May by external research company Perceptive Omnibus on behalf of Vicks to investigate how New Zealand adults behave when they suffer from a cold or flu and to establish whether men and women believed the phenomena of a man behaving like a child when sick.