Media releases

May 30, 2016


It’s the truth women don’t want to hear, but when it comes to the battle of the sniffles the infamous ‘man flu’ is no myth, with more men than women coming down with the flu last year, according to new Medibank data released today.

According to the Medibank Better Health Index, a study which interviews 1,000 men and women every week, 21 per cent of Aussie men came down with the flu in 2015, compared to only 19 per cent of women.

“Recent studies have shown that men may experience more severe flu symptoms than women, with testosterone being found to potentially weaken their immune response at a cellular level. Conversely, the female oestrogen hormone has been found to hold anti-viral qualities that could help women limit the replication of the virus in the body. Further to experiencing more severe symptoms, this data is also showing that men appear to be more susceptible the flu in the first place, with weaker responses to flu vaccinations observed in some males with higher testosterone levels,” said Medibank Medical Director Dr Kevin Cheng.

The good news? The Index reveals that on a national level, the incidence of the flu has steadily declined over the last eight years, from 26.5 per cent of Aussies contracting the virus in 2007[1] to only 19.9 per cent last year.

“This data may reflect rising immunity as a result of better vaccination practices, cross-immunity from more regional travel across the Australian population, or the consistency of influenza viral strains prevalent from this past decade. While we observe this trend in our health index that surveys Australians directly, flu incidence rates  reported to the Health Department have been steady for the past five years,” Dr Cheng said.

When it comes to the common cold however, Australian women seem to fare the worst, with more women (48 per cent) suffering from the cold than men (43 per cent).

With cold and flu season just around the corner, Medibank says now is the time for everyone to make sure their health is in check.

“If you were planning on getting a flu vaccination this year, get it done over the next few weeks so that your body has enough time to build up its immunity before winter arrives,” Dr Cheng added.

Medibank tips on how to avoid catching a cold or flu this winter

  • Wash your hands: We all know that washing your hands regularly helps prevent the spread of germs. But to ensure you’re never caught out, make sure you always have some hand sanitiser nearby wherever you go. 
  • Regular exercise: There are many health benefits to exercise, but when it comes to fighting off colds, increasing your heart rate has been found to strengthen your immune system and help your body fight off sickness.
  • Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation affects your body’s ability to work at its full capacity and fight off germs. It’s recommended you aim for around eight hours of sleep each night, depending on your age.

What to do if you come down with a cold or flu

  • Avoid exercising: If you’re feeling up to exercising, the general rule is that if your symptoms are above the neck, such as a blocked nose or sneezing, you should be fine. However if you’re coughing or have a temperature, it’s best to wait until your symptoms subside.
  • Stay hydrated: Your body is best equipped to fight infection when it’s hydrated. Not only will it help replace the fluids lost while sick but it’ll also help relieve congestion.
  • Warm liquids: Soups, broths and herbal teas not only soothe a sore throat, but also help symptoms like coughing and congestion.
  • Sleep, sleep, sleep: Your body needs time to rest and reboot, so try to put your feet up until your symptoms subside.
  • See your doctor. If symptoms persist or worsen, make sure you visit your GP to get the situation checked out.


- ENDS -

About the Medibank Better Health Index:

The Medibank Better Health Index is Australia’s most up-to-date and comprehensive quarterly health survey. Interviewing approximately 1,000 Australians each week from January 2007 to December 2015, it offers a rich, in-depth look into the state of the nation’s health and how it’s changing. The Index is centred on seven health indicators: Nutrition, Fitness, BMI, Medical Health, Mental Health, Smoking and Alcohol. Each indicator is made up from numerous factors, which are all relevant to the respective health area. Together, these indicators make up the overall Health Index Score, which when combined year-on-year, lets us see whether Australia’s health is getting better or worse over time.

Back to top