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More men are dying from COVID-19 worldwide than women, and the potential reasons run the gamut from biology to bad habits.
A study published last month in Frontiers in Public Health reported that men and women were equally likely to contract the novel coronavirus.
However, the researchers also reported that men are significantly more likely to suffer severe effects of the disease.
The Chinese researchers said that in one large subset of COVID-19 patients, more than 70 percent of those who died were men.
They said they found similar results when they examined research from the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
The study was backed up by other figures released since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that 63 percent of deaths related to COVID-19 in Europe have been among men.
A study by the Higher Health Institute of Rome in March found that among Italians hospitalized for the novel coronavirus, 8 percent of men died compared to 5 percent of women.
In New York City, men have been dying of coronavirus at almost twice the rate of women. The city’s health department reported in early April that 43 COVID-19 deaths for every 100,000 men, compared with 23 deaths for every 100,000 women.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently isn’t reporting COVID-19 deaths by gender, but experts see no reason the trend would differ elsewhere in the country.
“Some of the underlying reasons why COVID-19 may be more deadly for men than women may include the fact that heart disease is more common in elderly men than in elderly women,” Dr. Stephen Berger, an infectious disease expert and co-founder of the Global Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology Network (GIDEON), told Healthline. “Studies also find that high blood pressure and liver disease are more prevalent in men and these all contribute to more negative outcomes with COVID-19.”
A study published on May 10 reported that men men have higher concentrations of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in their blood than women.
Since ACE2 enables the coronavirus to infect healthy cells, this may help to explain why men are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than women, the researchers reported.
The immune system may also be a factor.
“Genetics may also play a big role,” Berger said. “Women, because of their extra X chromosome, have a stronger immune system and response to infections than men.”
“You can’t get away from biology and genetics,” agreed Salvatore J. Giorgianni, PharmD, a pharmacist and senior science advisor for the Men’s Health Network, which advocates for the health of men and boys.
The phenomenon actually prompted the launch of two clinical trials in the United States.
In these trials, scientists are giving men with COVID-19 sex hormones such as estrogen to see if that will help them recover from the illness.