Scientists say 'man flu' is not to be sniffed at

Women laugh about "man flu" but the condition is no myth, scientists have learned.

A study found work stress increased the likelihood of men - but not women - complaining of sore throats and sniffles.

One explanation given for the finding was that men tended to "overrate" the severity of cold and flu symptoms.

Women, on the other hand, were more likely to adopt a "stoical" attitude and soldier on in silence.

The South Korean researchers wrote in the journal Occupational Medicine: "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."

"Man flu" is defined by the Wiktionary online dictionary as "a cold or similar ailment as suffered by a male seen as wildly exaggerating the severity of his symptoms".

The scientists studied 1,200 manual workers from 40 different companies in Incheon, South Korea.

They found that men with demanding jobs were 74% more likely to report having cold symptoms than those under less pressure.

The chances of being ill were raised by 42% among men with "insufficient job control" and by 40% among those with "inadequate social support".

However the researchers could find no significant association between stress factors and cold complaints among women.

They acknowledged that the breadwinner role of Korean men may result in them experiencing more work stress than women.

But they pointed out that previous research had shown men were more likely to exaggerate cold symptoms.

In the UK, stress and depression are the biggest long-term cause of work absenteeism, affecting a quarter of all employees.

Dr Olivia Carlton, president of the Society of Occupational Medicine, said: "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; further studies on this are needed.

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

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