As Sars-CoV-2 continues making its rounds throughout the world, infecting and killing countless people worldwide (2.3 million infected and nearly 161 thousand dead as of April 19, 2020), medical researchers don’t sit idly by and continue tirelessly collecting data, searching for patterns and developing treatments and vaccines to battle the dangerous virus. Don’t be mistaken, even statistical work is crucial, as it can tell us who is at a greater risk of contracting and developing a serious, potentially even life-threatening form of the disease, even beyond age and preexisting conditions.
Many European countries, as well as the US and China, for example, have noted significant differences in the sex of the patients in the COVID-19 pool, and it turns out that males may be at a greater risk of dying from a COVID-19 infection, despite women catching the disease more often than men. In this article, we will examine these sex differences in greater detail and explain why men may be at a greater danger of being tragically affected by the Novel Coronavirus.
Men Are More Than Twice As Likely to Die of COVID-19
We all know by now that individuals with serious pre-existing conditions, as well as the elderly, are more likely to require breathing aid and develop a serious form of COVID-19 than other populations. However, a more recent examination also shows a disparity of infections and fatalities between men and women.
Data reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), for example, show that 68% of COVID-19 fatalities in Europe were men. Data from another source, Global Health 5050, rounded up statistical information from countries affected by the virus, and found that the ratio of male to female mortality in Ireland is 2 to 1, in Switzerland - 1.9 to 1, in China - 1.7 to 1, and as much as 2.1 to 1 in Denmark and Greece. American sources follow a similar pattern, with New York City releasing the information that males are twice as likely to die of a Coronavirus infection compared to females.
Women, on the other hand, are more likely to get the disease, with the same countries that report more fatalities often also showing a higher incidence of the disease in women. In South Korea, for example, 60% of COVID-19 patients are women, and 40% are men. Other countries, such as Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands also report more female patients than male ones.
That being said, countries like China, Italy, Greece do report more cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections in men than in women, so certainly not all countries follow the same demographic patterns. Nevertheless, fatality rates are consistently higher in males compared to females.
Why Does the Novel Coronavirus Affect Men More Severely?
Medical researchers claim that a mixture of genetic predispositions, social circumstances, and cultural characteristics render men at a greater risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19.
Biology. It actually turns out that women are biologically stronger than men when it comes to their immune system. This is, in part, due to the extra X chromosome in the DNA of women, which may make women’s immune response stronger than that of men. Sex hormones, such as estrogen, in particular, may also make women better at fighting viral infections.
One study even found that female mice were more likely to survive a coronavirus infection (a different strain of coronavirus, though) than male mice. Furthermore, removing estrogen from the female mice made them equally as likely to die of the infection as male mice. So, female sex hormones may help women fight off infectious diseases - an advantage men lack.
In addition, men in a number of countries are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and disregard their heart and liver health, which means that more men have underlying chronic cardiovascular, lung and liver problems - a known factor that increases COVID-19 severity.
Society. Social and cultural circumstances make men more likely to disregard their health and get diagnosed. Not only are men more likely to go outdoors and disregard social distancing guidelines, but they are also less likely to get tested for the virus when symptoms do occur, as reported by US sources.
As David Ezell, a mental health coach rightfully pointed out in an interview with Healthline, “Many men see self-care as an admission of weakness. We are taught to be self-sufficient and there for everyone but ourselves. That results in ignoring telltale symptoms of not only COVID but any life-threatening condition.”
All these factors combined make men, especially older men and men with preexisting conditions, at a very high risk of not surviving a COVID-19 infection. It also means that men should take extra care at preventing the disease at all costs, which means strictly abiding by social distancing and personal hygiene rules to prevent catching the virus.