Why men get sick more often
Runny nose, scratchy throat, fever, headache and body aches: Every person suffers from an average cold once or twice a year. Men seem to affect the infections significantly more. Are you just more self-pitying or sick men more frequent or more intense? An expert explains.
Women find men more resentful
In an older survey of male health and disease management, the majority of women (85.1 percent) said that men are often more self-pitying than themselves and would complain when the first signs of illness appear. Men shared this view much less frequently at 47.0 percent. But are men really much more self-pitying with light illnesses than women, or are the clichés of the "typical man" who like the "Indians know no pain" more correct?
Male immune system reacts more slowly
In scientific studies, too, answers have been found to the question of whether male cold or male flu actually exists or whether the "strong sex" is just more self-pitying.
In a study, British researchers from Queen Mary University in London found that the male immune system, unlike the female, responds more slowly and less efficiently to infectious diseases.
This is the reason why diseases in men were always more serious than in women. Accordingly, men would feel sicker than women.
The results were obtained when examining mice, but according to the researchers, they are readily transferable to humans.
Men can get sick more often
Anyone who deals with the question of whether men are actually more easily or more severely attacked by colds and flu viruses than women will end up with Beatrix Grubeck-Loebenstein sooner or later.
The scientist from the University of Innsbruck has been studying how the immune systems differ from women and men for a long time.
In the run-up to International Men's Day on November 19, the immunologist said after a message from the dpa news agency: "Roughly simplified, it can be said that the differences in the immune response make men more likely to get sick than women."
Specific and non-specific immune cells
To understand why, you need to know how the immune system works. When pathogens enter the body, they are fought by the body's own immune cells.
There are non-specific and specific immune cells. The latter are only effective against certain pathogens. This enables humans to defend themselves against a large number of viruses, bacteria or parasites.
However, there is only a small amount of the specific immune cells in the body. They have to reproduce millions of times to be able to defeat invading pathogens. This is where the difference between the sexes comes into play.
Because while the female hormone estrogen supports the proliferation of specific immune cells, the male hormone testosterone has exactly the opposite effect.
“Estrogen stimulates the immune system, but testosterone suppresses it. The immune system of women therefore reacts faster and more aggressively to pathogens than that of men, ”explained Marcus Altfeld from the Heinrich Pette Institute in Hamburg in the dpa report.
To make matters worse, the higher the testosterone level, the more weakened the male immune system.
Role of the female immune system
The causes of this difference are not clearly understood. Since the human immune system has developed over millions of years, a possible explanation, according to Altfeld, must look back far.
“Our ancestors in the Stone Age lived in common caves and exposed themselves to dangers. Even then, the task of the female immune system was to provide special protection for the unborn or newborn child, ”says the expert, according to the dpa.
The influence of hormone activity could also be explained by this connection. Grubeck-Loebenstein explained in the agency report: "The effect of the estrogen-strengthened immune system is particularly pronounced in young women from puberty and becomes weaker in women after menopause."
Differences between the genders
The gender-specific differences in the immune response can actually provide a reason for why men are more susceptible to some diseases than women. But to explain this only with the testosterone-weakened immune system falls short.
“Other factors also play a role that relate more to behavior and the environment. Men are still riskier, they eat less healthily and they are less disciplined, ”said Grubeck-Loebenstein.
Studies have also shown that men live healthier than women.
Prof. Dr. med. Years ago, who was the first doctor in the world to be appointed as a university professor for men's health, said: “Women live in their bodies. Men tend to use their bodies as instruments - and neglect them. ”
However, even if more insights into the differences between male and female defense against diseases have now been gained, Marcus Altfeld still considers the level of knowledge to be insufficient:
“Nowadays there is a lot of talk about personalized medicine, the individual should be given increasing attention in research. We don't even know enough about the differences between the sexes, ”said the expert, according to dpa. (ad)