Scientists have determined what we men have known since the dawn of time: that what is a sniffle to a woman is a cataclysmic and debilitating illness to those of us with a Y chromosome.
Not only this but the researchers seem to have found out why we men suffer diseases more seriously and for longer. Scientists believe it is the male predilection for a "live fast, die young" lifestyle that means in evolutionary terms they have failed to build up their immune systems like females. That means that they not only catch more diseases but they tend to suffer more seriously, and for longer, from them.
A team at the University of Cambridge came up with the theory by applying a mathematical model to the various factors that characterise males and females. It predicts that the adventurous lifestyle of the male means that they are more exposed to disease but paradoxically this reduces their immunity.
Dr Olivier Restif, of the University of Cambridge, said: "In many cases, males tend to be more prone to get infected or less able to clear infection. Proposed mechanisms include interference between male hormones and immunity, as well as risk-taking behaviour. “
"An increase in male susceptibility or exposure to infection favours the spread of the pathogen in the whole population and therefore tends to select for higher resistance or tolerance in both sexes if the cost of immunity is essential. But above a certain level of exposure, the benefit of rapid recovery in males decreases owing to constant reinfection.
"This selects for lower resistance in males, ultimately leading to the counterintuitive situation where males with higher susceptibility or exposure to infection than females evolve lower immunocompetence."
The finding published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences suggests that 'man flu' is not a myth.
It is not just us humans males - across a range of animal species, males tend to be the "weaker sex" in relation to immune defences, usually because of hormonal differences.
Dr Restif said: "Our results show that, under a range of genetic and ecological constraints, males and females can evolve different levels of immune defences, sometimes at odds with intuitive expectations... males are selected to decrease their immune defences and remain sexually active during infection if their exposure to infection is high."
Well there you have it. The idea that women are the weaker sex is nonsense. A sniffle lays me low while the not-wife would shake off the Ebola virus with two paracetamol and an a cup of tea.... On the other hand I don’t exactly live fast unless sloth is deemed to be an extreme sport!