Man-flu: Men more likely to complain

By George Driver

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

Man-flu has gone viral, but it's not just illness that's spreading - new research has found that thousands of men are going online to share their pain and plead for sympathy.

A recent Twitter study found that men were overwhelmingly more likely to complain of flu symptoms on the social media site than women.

The study found that in New Zealand, 546 men complained about having the flu in their tweets, but only six women tweeted about the illness.

The United Kingdom has been deemed the global capital of man-flu _ the notion that men exaggerate their aches and pains _ with 50,710 complaints from men and fewer than 2000 from women.

This comes after a British study in January gave weight to the man-flu theory, which claimed men had a larger number of temperature receptors in the brain, which may cause men to feel the effects of flu more than women.

However Wellington GP Dr Arlene Smyth was unconvinced. She said men did not visit doctors as often as women, so it was hard to judge whether man-flu was anything more than a myth.

"I don't see them to make that judgement ... men tend to avoid the doctors until something is going black or falling off.

"I think there is probably a lot of illness that we as practitioners don't see and that wives and partners have to deal with, and hence the term man-flu.''

However women might tolerate sickness better than men, she said.

"I think as a general gender difference, women tolerate things a lot more than men, in general.

"So they've got to keep going. Whether they've got a cold or the flu they've got to keep going because they've usually got children to deal with and they've usually got work to deal with as well.''

Virologist Dr Lance Jennings said there was evidence that man-flu was more than just a myth.

"Physiologically and hormonally there are differences, and these trends are sometimes noted.''

One strain of the flu in China at the moment is affecting predominantly males, he said.

"We don't understand that at this point ... there are a lot of factors that need to be considered (such as living conditions).''

Despite so many online moans, it appeared influenza rates were low this year.

Environmental Science and Research reported that weekly doctor consultation rates for flu were well below normal; with 27.5 per 100,000 patients going to their GP in July, well below the rate of 160 per 100,000 at the same time last year.

National Influenza Specialist Group representative Brenda Saunders said there had been a 25 per cent increase in flu vaccination rates this year.

"We distributed about 1.25 million vaccine doses this year ... it's a record year, definitely.''


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