Man flu. Yes, we know – some of you, upon reading that, groaned, whereas others threw their arms up in despair saying “finally, the science has been settled”. Is man flu, the idea that men experience colds and influenza infections more severely than women, a valid scientific concept?
Full disclosure: we don’t know, and no-one does. There have been a handful of studies published on the phenomenon, but no solid, cause-and-effect evidence demonstrating that man flu is real has ever surfaced. Now, as part of the Christmas issue of the BMJ, one maverick researcher decided to parse through the evidence and see what for.
He concludes that there’s a fair bit of (arguably) circumstantial evidence that man flu is indeed real.
Now, here’s a very important caveat: do not take this seriously. It’s a somewhat jocular study, as are most of those released as part of the BMJ’s Christmas bonanza.
If you needed any more confirmation of this, remember that in Christmas 2015, a paper explaining how to stop a zombie virus outbreak was also published by the BMJ.
In any case, it has to be said that the (non-peer reviewed) review is a joy to read.
“Despite the universally high incidence and prevalence of viral respiratory illnesses, no scientific review has examined whether the term 'man flu' is appropriately defined or just an ingrained pejorative term with no scientific basis,” Dr Kyle Sue, a clinical assistant professor from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, begins.
“Tired of being accused of over-reacting, I searched the available evidence to determine whether men really experience worse symptoms and whether this could have any evolutionary basis.”
Searching through seven academic databases, reading through the abstracts of hundreds of papers, and then checking out how thoroughly researched the most relevant articles were, he reached his controversial conclusion.