COVID-19 Killing More Men Than Women – What Numbers, Studies Say

Trends emerging from worst-affected countries show that COVID-19 is taking the lives of more men than women.

Updated
Gender
4 min read
Trends emerging from worst-affected countries show that COVID-19 is taking the lives of more men than women.
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Numbers emerging from countries that are worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic show one clear trend – the novel virus, that has shook the world, is killing more men than women.

India’s Union Health Ministry on Monday, 6 April, said that 73 percent of the deaths due to virus have been reported in men, while 27 percent of those have been in women.

Take the case of Italy – the country worst-hit in all the world.

The European nation has recorded over 6,000 deaths, and over 65,000 people tested positive for the virus.

At least 60 percent of those affected are men and more than 70 percent of them have died from the virus, said Italy’s top health research agency Istituto Superiore di Sanità.

COVID-19 Killing More Men Than Women –  What Numbers, Studies Say

China Reflects the Same Gender Disparity

Recent figures released by China's Centre for Disease Control – which claims that 'tens of thousands' of cases were studied – showed strong gender disparity in deaths due to coronavirus.

64 percent of those who died were male while only 36 percent were female.

An early study, conducted of Wuhan, pointed that two-thirds of those infected were male, reported The Washington Post.

How Age, Gender Play a Role in Deaths

Unlike Italy and China, more women tested positive for coronavirus in South Korea – a country that is being appreciated for its handling of the pandemic.

Women made up 61 percent of confirmed infections in South Korea. But then again, the majority fatalities were male – with 54 percent of those who died from the virus being men, The Post reported.

In South Korea, the women who tested positive were between 20 and 29 years of age, while in Italy men above 70 years of age were the worst affected. As a result of this, the fatality rate in the South Korea was only 1.06 percent, while in Italy it was more than 8 percent.

Where Does India Stand

India’s Union Health Ministry on Monday, 6 April, said that 76 percent of coronavirus patients in India are men while 24 percent are women, among the 4,000-odd people who have tested positive for the virus.

Of the over 100 deaths recorded, 73 percent of the deaths due to virus have been reported in men, while 27 percent of those have been in women. According to the ministry, 47 percent of the those infected are under the age of 40 while 34 percent of patients in India fall in the age group of 40 to 60. 19 percent of the patients are 60 years of age and above – a possible reason that India’s death rate is relatively low.

What Is the Reason Behind This?

Studies point out to both biological and lifestyle factors that enable women to fight the disease better. One point that is being stressed upon repeatedly is – women have stronger immunity systems than men – thanks to the X chromosome.

According to a recent and much-quoted study in the journal Human Genomics, the X chromosome contains "a large number of immune-related genes." And since women have two of these, they also have an added advantage.

Apart from the magic chromosome, estrogen may also be protecting women.

After the SARS outbreak in 2003, researchers conducted a study where mice were exposed to the virus, The New York Times said in a report. The male mice were far more susceptible as compared to their female counterparts. But when researchers blocked the stream of estrogen and exposed the female mice to the virus, they too became more susceptible to it.

China has the largest population of smokers in the world, according to the same report. But interestingly, while more than half the population of men smoke only 2 percent of women smoke in the country, mostly due to social conditioning.

Chinese men are also more prone to diabetes and blood pressure than women. In Italy, most men who were affected had a history of respiratory or heart diseases.

More Men Lost Lives During SARS, MERS

A similar pattern of fatality was observed during the SARS outbreak in 2003 and the MERS outbreak, which were also caused by coronavirus.

In 2003 Hong Kong more men than women were affected by the SARS but the fatality rate among the male population was 50 percent higher.

Similarly, 32 percent of men affected with MERS died, while only 25 percent of women succumbed to the disease, according to multiple media reports.

If we go further down history, more men than women died in the United States, during the influenza outbreak in 1918.

(With inputs from Washington Post, The New York Times)

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