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Sympathy at last for Man Flu sufferers

It seems there may be scientific justification for the condition known as Man Flu, but it’s down to stress at work say scientists
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
man coughing

19th January 2011 - Men who are tired of being the butt of women’s jokes about ‘Man Flu’ can now wave a piece of research from their sick beds that suggests the condition does exist.

A study has shown that men who are under pressure at work were more likely to complain of sore throats, coughs and sniffles than women, who tended to soldier on.

Man Flu has developed into a common expression to describe a condition where men appear to suffer more exaggerated symptoms from a cold than women.

Man Flu and stress

Researchers in South Korea studied 1,241 manual workers from 40 different companies and found that men who were under stress because of a demanding job were 74% more likely to take time off with a cold than those under less pressure.

They also found that men who lacked control over their job were 42% more likely to take time off, while those with a lack of social support were 40% more likely to call in sick.

Women more ‘stoical’

The researchers said they could find no such association between cold symptoms and taking time off among women. They write that, “any association between work-related stress and the common cold may be accentuated in males by their reaction to experiencing a cold and attenuated in females

by their more stoical response”.

However, they acknowledge that the results may be partly explained by the role of South Korean men as primary wage earners who tend to hold more stressful positions.

The study appears in the journal Occupational Medicine.

Immune system

Commenting on their findings, Dr Olivia Carlton, President of the Society of Occupational Medicine said in a statement: "Stress of any kind, including work related stress may affect your immune system and be a potential risk factor for the common cold and other illnesses.”

Carlton said that, although further studies were needed, “the real issue here is that managers in the workplace need to understand how to identify employees who are experiencing stress and help those who are affected”.

She continued: “We need to remove the stigma associated with psychological health conditions - they are common and can happen to anyone at anytime in their life. There are solutions and it's important that staff feel able to seek support."

Reviewed on January 19, 2011

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