Why Does COVID-19 Kill More Men Than Women?

A recent study has suggested that COVID-19 affects men more seriously than it does women and scientists are struggling to explain why.

By now, we are all aware that there are several risk factors (age, obesity, diabetes and other pre-existing medical conditions) associated with COVID-19, the virus caused by the SARS-CoV-2 strain of the coronavirus. But it seems that men are also more likely to develop more serious forms of this virus than women. This has recently been proved by a study that was published in the Frontiers in Public Health journal on 29th April, and which stated that the mortality rate was 2.5 times higher for men in comparison to that of women.

More serious cases

This study was carried out by researchers at Huazhong University of Science and Technology (Wuhan, China) to try and determine the differences between genders in terms of the virus’ evolution, but also in order so that they could gain a better understanding of why some people are more affected than others. To do this, scientists analysed data from 1,056 people who had been diagnosed with the virus, as well as data collected from a group of 43 patients who had been treated by the team themselves.

Dr. Jin-Kui Yang, a researcher and physician at Beijing Tongren Hospital stated:

Early in January, we noticed that the number of men dying from COVID-19 appeared to be higher than the number of women. This raised a question: Are men more susceptible to getting or dying from COVID-19?

They then showed that men and women had a similar risk of contracting the virus, but that men were more likely to develop a more severe form of the disease, suffer from complications and die. Just like people who suffer from heart conditions and diabetes, the levels of the ACE2 protein, the protein that causes people to become infected, also tended to be higher in men than women.

Several possible explanations

These results confirm those of a study that had previously been conducted in Wuhan, China at the beginning of April. This particular study indicated that 72.9% of patients who had died as a result of the virus were men. But why? According to researchers, these higher levels of the ACE2 protein could be a contributory factor.

Other hypotheses have also been raised. The first proposes that men tend to lead less healthy lives than women. Therefore, they would be in worse shape and more likely to die as a result. Another theory suggesting that women have a stronger and tougher immune system, most likely due to higher oestrogen levels, has also been proposed.

Furthermore, men are also said to be less likely to consult a doctor when symptoms start to appear, as well as being less likely to follow public health guidelines. For example, they apparently wash their hands less often than women. So far, however, there is no definitive explanation. In light of this data, scientists have recommended that elderly male patients and men with pre-existing medical conditions should be more carefully monitored.

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