If your boyfriend has ever caught your two-day cold and played the sick card for a week, you know firsthand that most men are total wimps when they get sick. Now new research recently published in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics confirms it.
In the study, researchers looked at data collected in the British Household Panel Survey, which was used to collect health information in the United Kingdom at regular intervals between 1991 and 2008. They picked 1,471 men and 1,388 women who were healthy in 2005, when each participant completed a 15-item self-assessment designed to detect five personality traits: openness, extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Next, researchers looked at data collected on the same people after 2005, when many of the respondents developed various health issues. First, participants listed all their physical and mental ailments. Then, they rated their health satisfaction on a scale of one (not satisfied at all) to seven (completely satisfied).
As expected, major health issues generally lowered participants' overall health satisfaction. While mental health issues affected people's ratings more than physical ailments across the board, there were some gender differences in the ratings: Women were more affected than men by single symptoms like, say, acne. But when it came to multiple symptoms (like acne and back pain), men were more affected.
Interestingly, particularly agreeable women who ranked low in conscientiousness were less likely to let health issues sink their overall health satisfaction. But the same didn't hold true for men: When their health tanked due to multiple symptoms, so did their health satisfaction. In other words, the guys were less resilient than the women.
Researchers don't know exactly why men seem to tolerate single symptoms better than women. One guess: "It could be a manifestation of cultural norms, expecting men to be more stoic, or that multiple illnesses are, for some reason, more traumatic for men," says study co-author Robert Rosenman, Ph.D., a Washington State University who focuses on health economics.
Another unknown is why personality traits didn't seem to help men cope. Rosenman's best guess? "A lot of personality comes out in emotions, and men might suppress those feelings more," he says.
Until more research is done to fully explain the findings, your best bet is to give your guy the sympathy he craves — and hope he returns the favor next time you're in need.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.