Coronavirus pandemic may be impacting men worse than women | Image credit: Reuters

New research shows that that men had a 62 percent higher risk of death associated with Covid-19 as compared to women. But why?
Last Updated: September 30, 2020, 4:28 PM IST


Is coronavirus impacting men more? Studies seem to be suggesting it is.

While it has been proved that both men and women are likely to get coronavirus, the effects of the virus seem to be manifold, depending on genetic makeup and bad habits. Meaning more men seem to be globally dying of coronavirus than women.

New research released during the ESCMID Conference on Coronavirus Disease in September showed that men had a 62 percent higher risk of death associated with Covid-19 as compared to women.

Previously, a study published in April in Frontier had also found that though men and women were equally likely to contract the virus, men are more likely to suffer from more acute effects of the disease.

Global mortality trends from across the world have pointed at more male fatalities due to Covid-19 than women.

But what is causing this discrepancy?

Dropping testosterone

A new study has linked more men dying of Covid-19 globally than women to the ability of Covid-19 in depleting testosterone levels in the body.

Initially, the lower testosterone levels in the Covid-19 patients were associated with poor health conditions, however, a new study shows that it may be a viral infection that is causing the level of male sex hormone to decrease. Testosterone is the male sex hormone and decreases on an average by 0.8-2 percent a year after 40 years. The fact could be comprehended behind the outcome of coronavirus in older patients.

“Testosterone is associated with the immune system of respiratory organs, and low levels of testosterone might increase the risk of respiratory infections,” says Selahittin Çayan, professor of urology, who contributed to the study.

Prevalence of comorbidities

Elderly men are more prone to exhibit heart disease, high blood pressure and liver disease than elderly women, making men more susceptible to death from Covid-19. As per a 2016 study published by Harvard Health Publishing, men of all ages are twice as likely to have a heart attack than women. Men are also two-fold more likely to get liver disease or liver cirrhosis than women, NCBI data confirmed. These factors may make men easier targets for Covid-19.

Male enzymes and immune system

Men have a higher prevalence of for certain enzymes such as angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). ACE2 facilitates the COVID-19 virus to infect healthy cells in the body, a study found in May. Researchers also claim that women’s genetic make-up which includes the extra X chromosome is intrinsically better designed to fend off infections more than their male counterparts.

Bad habits

Behaviours such as smoking which negatively impact the lungs can also pose additional dangers to coronavirus patients. So in places such as China where smoking is more prevalent than in women, male COVID-19 patients are more likely to succumb to the virus. Not just smoking, studies have shown that higher levels of air pollution can also have a negative impact on coronavirus patients.