Researchers claim that COVID-19 mortality rate for men is higher than for women, although both sexes are infected in nearly equal numbers. But why?
The China Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that out of 72,314 COVID-19 cases studied, 2.8% of infected men died, compared to 1.7% of women. Reports in many US states and cities also show similar disparities. Differences between male and female death rate were also found after analyzing the SARS and MERS pandemic- even in the 1918 influenza pandemic, the male deaths were higher.
Scientists say that some habits affecting health and sex hormones may play an important role in this problem. Men tend to have more diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes (these chronic diseases are influenced by COVID-19).
Why is the death rate for COVID-19 higher for men?
One cause of this condition is the fundamental difference in the immune response between sexes. Experts say that women tend to have a stronger immune response than men against infections. This is the role of hormones.
Testosterone, the male sex hormone, inhibits inflammation. And estrogen, the female sex hormone, can activate the cells involved in the anti-virus response. In a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Physiology, nasal cells were treated with estrogen-like compounds prior to exposure to influenza viruses. Results showed that only the cells from the female responded to the hormones and fought the virus.
Dr. Bhanu Sud, an infectious disease specialist at St. Medical Center Jude in Orange County, California said that men are at higher risk of infection and death because smoking rates in men are higher than in women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also said that smoking is one of the causes of a person’s immunodeficiency, which means their immunity is weakened.
Statistics in a 2019 study show that nearly 50% of men in China smoke, while women were 3% less. Another study from China, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on February 28, found that smokers made up about 26% of those who eventually received intensive care or died of COVID-19. It is possible that smokers are at higher risk for viral infections due to frequent oral contact. In addition, they can share infected cigarettes.
This gender difference is likely to be the basis for developing effective COVID-19 treatments.