Is it True that Coronavirus Affects Men More than Women?

09 June, 2020
Everyday, we have new statistics regarding the current pandemic. Recently, new data has led researchers to ask themselves if coronavirus affects men more than women. In today's article, we'll tell you what we know.

In order to discover if coronavirus affects men more than women, we need to look closely at the statistics. All of the affected countries are compiling data in real-time in order to understand how this infection behaves among their populations.

China was the first country to suffer the COVID-19 outbreak. And, therefore, it was also the first country to release initial data about the epidemiological profile of the infection. Later, other countries began adding their own local information.

Most concur that the virus does, in fact, affect men more than it does women. However, this doesn’t have to do with infections, but, rather, fatalities.

The difference between men that are infected by SARS-CoV-2 and women with the same infection is minimal. Almost every geographical region records a difference of 2 to 4% between the sexes. This isn’t a significant value.

  • By analyzing the aggressive and lethal effect of coronavirus, it’s possible to affirm that coronavirus affects men more than it does women.
  • On average, women become infected less than men.
  • In comparison to men, infected women have required fewer hospitalizations and fewer beds in intensive care.

Preexisting conditions may explain why coronavirus affects men more than women

Global statistics agree that coronavirus may affect men more than women. These reports have been reported on every continent.

The point of inflection is that men die more often from coronavirus in proportion to women. And experts speculate that fatal results may have to do with preexisting conditions.

We already know that the groups that are most at risk from this illness are those with chronic conditions. For example, high blood pressure, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes. In the same way, oncological patients and those with weakened immune systems are at greater risk.

It turns out that, in general, men are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions than women are. If we review the statistics from Europe, almost 50 % of men have high blood pressure. However, in the case of women, the numbers go down to 37 %.

In regard to respiratory illness, something similar happens, and then we can add to that tobacco use, which is also more common among males. This is consistent with the fact that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is almost twice as frequent in men than women.

A man with a fever.
Men are at greater risk of suffering coronavirus because they suffer more preexisting cardiac conditions than women

Keep reading: How to Protect Yourself Against Coronavirus If You Have Diabetes

The hormonal theory

Besides the age composition of affected groups, there’s a theory that supports a hormonal profile. According to this hypothesis, estrogens may explain why coronavirus may affect men more than women.

In the last 20 years, two other coronavirus epidemics–SARS and MERS–also affected the human race. Afterward, experts conducted scientific studies on these viruses. Some of these studies revealed that female rats were more able to resist coronavirus than males.

To continue their research, investigators advanced in a second phase where they removed these rats’ ovaries. As a result, the female rats stopped producing feminine hormones like estrogens. At this moment, they began to catch up with the contagion rate of males.

Of course, this research was conducted on animals and with different coronaviruses that weren’t SARS-CoV-2. However, it still allows for association. Further investigation is necessary regarding the current virus, but at least it produces a field of study to pursue.

A man with high blood pressure.
Men are more prone to high blood pressure than women, and this increases their risk of suffering serious forms of coronavirus

Discover more: How Coronavirus Infects Cells in the Lungs

The problem with gender in this pandemic

Beyond the fact that coronavirus can affect men more than women, the issue is an important one. Both from an economic perspective as well as in regard to exposure to the virus in hospitals and clinics.

Women may see a great decrease in their economic activity when it comes to quarantines. A classic example is the case of domestic workers who are unable to travel to go to the homes where they work. The past experience with the Ebola outbreak between 2014 and 2016 showed that nurses were overexposed to the virus because there were more of them working as frontline nurses.

Keep in mind

The difference in infection between men and women is no reason to modify our general preventative practices. Both men and women must maintain social isolation and wash our hands frequentlyWhat’s more, anyone who displays symptoms that are compatible with coronavirus should contact the health services.

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  • Alemán, J. F., and Beatriz Rueda. “Influence of gender on protective and vulnerability factors, adherence and quality of life in patients with cardiovascular disease.” Atencion primaria 51.9 (2018): 529-535.
  • Zou, Lirong, et al. “SARS-CoV-2 viral load in upper respiratory specimens of infected patients.” New England Journal of Medicine 382.12 (2020): 1177-1179.
  • Jin, Jian-Min, et al. “Gender differences in patients with COVID-19: Focus on severity and mortality.” medRxiv (2020).
  • Cai, Hua. “Sex difference and smoking predisposition in patients with COVID-19.” The Lancet Respiratory Medicine (2020).