They have now published a study in the “Journal of Psychosomatic Research” according to which “the concept of ‘man cold’ should be discarded”. Men would not have worse symptoms than women, but women would recover more quickly.
“Despite the widespread recognition of ‘man cold’ in general pop culture, empirical data on gender-specific differences are scarce,” write the scientists led by David Riedl from the University Department of Psychiatry II and Daniel Dejaco from the University Department of Ear, Nose and Throat Medicine University of Innsbruck. In their study, the researchers observed the course of symptoms in 113 people with flu-like symptoms within the first eight days after infection. 56 percent of the participants were female, the average age of the group was 41 years. The symptoms were evaluated both subjectively (self-assessment by the patients) and objectively (assessment by a doctor).
“No significant gender difference”
The study found “no significant gender-specific difference” between men and women in terms of objectifiable symptoms at the onset of the disease, such as a stuffy or runny nose, headaches, chills or lack of sleep. However, “a significantly faster recovery of the women” was found – both in terms of the severity of the symptoms assessed by the doctor and in the severity of the symptoms reported by the patients.
The researchers cite the interaction of sex hormones with the immune system as a possible reason for this. Previous studies have shown that women are better able to produce antibodies, which increases immune activity and thus faster and more effective defense against infections.
The authors of the study also point to the well-established fact that men are more likely to be examined and treated more thoroughly than women with the same severity of symptoms. A population-wide study in Denmark from 2019 shows that almost three out of four diseases in women are diagnosed later than in men.
The scientists cite a possible gender-specific bias as a possible limitation of their study results, because it was not recorded whether a doctor recorded the symptoms and this could make a difference in their assessment. In any case, the study data “does not support the hypothesis of a ‘man cold'”.
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