'Man Flu' Is Real, So Give the Men in Your Life a Break

Do men that complain more when they're sick have a point?. Vic/Flickr

It might finally be time to simply admit that men are, indeed, the weaker sex.

At least, that's how it seems to be in regards to men's immune systems. There is growing evidence to suggest that so-called "man flu" — the observation than men tend to complain more when they're sick — is a legitimate phenomenon. And at least one medical researcher prescribes a heavy dose of couch-lying, television watching, and low-key comfort for the men in your life who have the sniffles, reports Business Insider.

Dr. Kyle Sue, a medical professor at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, first became inspired to look into the legitimacy of man flu after his own experiences of being accused of over-reacting every time he contracted flu-like symptoms.

The phenomenon certainly seems true of mice, at least. Sue's research uncovered several studies on mice that showed a tendency for female mice to have stronger immune systems than their male counterparts, and a few of these studies were able to link this phenomenon with male and female hormonal differences — balances between testosterone and estrogen levels — that are also present in humans.

This led Sue to a 2013 Stanford study that found not only that women's antibodies tend to respond more rapidly to an injection of the flu virus than men's antibodies, but that a man's antibody response time was directly correlated to his testosterone levels. The higher the testosterone, the slower and weaker the immune response.

Taken together with the mouse studies, there appears to be ample evidence that testosterone is the prime culprit here as an immune suppressant. Thus, the more manly the man, the more prone he is to getting sick.

"Men may not be exaggerating symptoms, but have weaker immune responses to viral respiratory viruses, leading to greater morbidity and mortality than seen in women," explained Sue.

So the men in your life might, indeed, be wimps. But it's worth considering that they might also be dealing with inferior immune systems. Maybe they actually deserve a little leeway when it comes to their activity levels when sick. In fact, that's exactly what Sue (somewhat jokingly) prescribes for the sick men in your life:

"Perhaps now is the time for male friendly spaces, equipped with enormous televisions and reclining chairs, to be set up where men can recover from the debilitating effects of man flu in safety and comfort."

The whining, though. Maybe that could use some toning down, guys.

The study was published in the British Medical Journal.