'Man-flu' is real to a fifth of British women

Updated: 2011-10-20 08:43


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LONDON - One in five British women believe that the debilitating "man-flu" disease which temporarily leaves sufferers prostrate on the sofa watching televised sports is real, according to a new study.

The survey, which questioned 2,000 British adults about health and wellbeing, showed that misconceptions and old wives' tales, including the myth that eating carrots improves night vision, prevail among the population when it comes to beliefs about common illnesses.

"Unbelievably, there are still a lot of misconceptions around how minor illnesses and conditions are caused or prevented," study leader Mike Smith, said in a statement.

The top 10 health myths ranged from the theory that eating carrots will aid night vision to the belief that too much stress will turn your hair grey, both subscribed to by one in 10 of the population.

More than a third of people said that sugar makes children hyper, and 37 percent said they believed we lose most of our body heat through our heads -- the most popular misconception of the survey.

While the face, head and chest are more sensitive to temperature change than the rest of the body, covering one part of the body has as much effect as covering any other, researchers said.

"The Contagion study suggests that a large majority of the population are still under the illusion that they can, for example, get square eyes from watching too much television, or get better night vision from eating more carrots," Smith said.

"These are just not true, but do go to show that no matter how many millions are spent on health and education, some medical myths still prevail," he said.

When illness strikes, almost half of people agreed that men exaggerate their symptoms to get attention, with 38 percent also believing that men take longer to recover from illness than women.

Over half of respondents admitted to self-diagnosis, using the internet to research their symptoms.

"Old wives' tales are just that -- tales that should not be listened to or abided by. If the public are in any real doubt as to how to treat a condition, they should always refer to their GP (family doctor) or professional medical adviser," Smith said.

The study was specially commissioned to mark the release of Hollywood thriller "Contagion" starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law.