Saturday. 20.04.2024

Coronavirus (koronavirus, in Finnish) appears to create a particular threat to men. This trend was first seen in China than in Italy.

One early study from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzing 72,314 coronavirus cases in mainland China found men fatality rate was 2.8% versus 1.7% for women.

On the other hand, according to data from Italy's top health research agency Istituto Superiore di Sanità across the first 1,697 coronavirus deaths in Italy, 71% (1,197) were men and 29% (493) were women.

In China, researchers pointed the finger at men being more likely to smoke and drink, but this was a cultural factor that may be different in other countries.

China and Italy are not the only two examples. When we look at the most affected countries' death rates due to Covid-19 we can see men's rate higher than women.

Global Health 50/50, an initiative that advocates for gender equality in health, has been collecting coronavirus infection figures from the 25 countries with the highest number of cases, but so far only 12 countries provide details on male and female fatality.

This is not the first time that gender differences are observed when it comes to mortality. For example, young adult men also died at higher rates than their female peers during the influenza epidemic of 1918.

A number of factors may be working against men in the current epidemic, scientists say. Some of them may be biological, and some rooted in lifestyle. But the reasons are not yet clear.

Biological factors

Also, a series of experiments carried out by the University of Iowa Department of Microbiology in 2016 and 2017 with male and female mice infected with the coronavirus that caused SARS proved that -as happened with humans- male mice were more likely to die.

But when the team removed the ovaries from females, their death rates suddenly increased, suggesting that the hormone estrogen somehow protected the females from SARS.

Hypertension and smoking

Other studies have shown that Italian men also have higher rates of hypertension than age-matched females, while Chinese men tend to have higher blood pressure and are more likely to have Type 2 diabetes.

Historically, men have smoked more than women and the difference is particularly large in China, where nearly 50% of men but less than 3% of women smoke.

However, in Italy the gender differences among smokers are much smaller than in China, with 28% of men and 19% of women smoking.

According to one article published last month by the New England Journal of Medicine, smokers made up about 12% of those with less severe symptoms, but 26% of those who ended up in intensive care or died.

For the researchers, all these factors contribute to possible complications when people get infected by the Covid-19 virus.

Men have 65% higher risk

The World Health Organization and Chinese scientists revealed in early March that the overall fatality rate -the total of proportion of people who died- was 1.7% of women, compared to 2.8% of men.

This gave men a 65% higher chance of death from coronavirus if they caught it.

Coronavirus seems more fatal to men than to women