The truth about 'man flu'

Studies show hormones may make men more susceptible to the flu, although women tend to suffer colds more often than men. Photo / Getty
Studies show hormones may make men more susceptible to the flu, although women tend to suffer colds more often than men. Photo / Getty

The much maligned "man flu" is no myth, according to an Australian survey of who suffers the most from influenza.

Despite being regarded as a bit of a joke by many long-suffering wives and girlfriends, health data actually shows more men were struck down with influenza last year than women.

According to health insurer Medibank, drawing upon information from weekly interviews with more than 1000 Australian men and women, 21 per cent of men came down with the flu in 2015, compared with 19 per cent of women.

Of all the states, NSW residents were most likely to catch the flu, with 22 per cent infected compared with a national average of 19 per cent.

The survey also reveals that on a national level, the incidence of the flu has steadily declined over the past eight years, from 26.5 per cent of Aussies contracting the virus in 2007 to only 19.9 per cent last year.

The insurer's medical director Kevin Cheng said recent research showed hormones could play a role in different levels of suffering among men and women.

"Further to experiencing more severe symptoms, this data is also showing that men appear to be more susceptible to the flu in the first place, with weaker responses to flu vaccinations observed in some males with higher testosterone levels," Dr Cheng said.

"Recent studies have shown that men may experience more severe flu symptoms than women, with testosterone being found to potentially weaken their immune response at a cellular level.

"Conversely, the female oestrogen hormone has been found to hold antiviral qualities that could help women limit the replication of the virus in the body."

When it comes to the common cold however, Australian women are worse off with more women (48 per cent) suffering from the cold than men (43 per cent).

- news.com.au

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