Studies have revealed that men seem to be more at risk of getting severe effects of the COVID-19 infection compared to women. Studies also show that women seem to be worrying more about getting infected than men. Both these findings may be related to each other. With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting millions around the world and killing tens of thousands of people, measures of social distancing and lockdowns preventing people from getting out are in place across several nations. Amidst this, the gender disparity of the infection may be significant feel researchers.
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Men more at risk than women
A new survey from the United Kingdom looked at 2,100 British citizens, and 52 percent of women said they were more worried about the spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) compared to only 44 percent of the men. In their sample, men and women were equally affected by the virus.
Men remain more at risk of getting severe symptoms of the disease and die from the COVID-19 infection compared to women. Evidence shows that men in Italy, Greece, and Peru have been twice as affected by severe COVID-19 compared to women. In China, Spain, and Germany, 65 percent of the total number of deaths due to the infection were among men. Global Health analysis shows that in no nation, the risk of deaths due to the disease was more for women than men. In Australia, men made up 60 percent of the total deaths due to the infection. In South Korea, 60 percent of the cases were women, but deaths still were more common among men.
A meta-analysis from the University College London researchers, however, found that among the 206,128 cases of COVID-19 around the globe, both men and women were at equal risk of getting the infection. Still, men were two times as likely as women to need intensive care and 60 percent more likely to die.
Details of the survey
This survey took place between 10th and 15th April 2020 when the United Kingdom was in its fourth week of lockdown when all non-essential services and movements were wholly restricted. It was conducted by the academic research group Global Health 50/50. The participants were also asked about whether they supported the continuation of the lockdown for at least three more weeks as planned. The results showed that 84 percent of the participants supported or strongly supported the restrictions placed by the authorities. Women were more in favor of this lockdown (88 percent) compared to men (82 percent). Half of the responders said that they wanted the lockdown to continue for at least another six months.
What did the survey show?
The survey questionnaire asked about health-related worries to the participants. It showed that 66 percent of women were worried that the infection would spread to a member of their family. Their concern ranged between moderate to severe. This was 62 percent among men who revealed they were concerned to very concerned about a family member getting infected.
The numbers revealed that 60 percent of the women were worried about getting the infection themselves compared to 54 percent of men. Among women, 52 percent were worried about not being able to procure the medicines when needed. Only 44 percent of men had similar concerns.
Fear of isolation and economic setback
One of the greatest fears that women who were surveyed stated was being isolated and not being able to reach their family and friends if they needed it. This concern was seen among 43 percent women and 35 percent men.
One-third of the women (33 percent) were afraid of the economic setback as a result of this pandemic. The women stated that they were worried about being able to pay bills, rent, and mortgage. Compare to this, 28 percent of men reported similar worries. Fear of running out of food was also a significant worry among women (30 percent) compared to 23 percent among men. Health worries remain one of the significant fears at present among both men and women and score over economic concerns, say the researchers.
More women agreed that suspension or postponement of the mortgage and debt payments would be a good move at least during lockdown and period of economic slowdown and crisis. The survey showed that 81 percent of the women and 72 percent of men supported such bailout measures. This question revealed the largest gender gap in opinion wrote the researchers.
Both men and women provided little support for the provision of government aid to small businesses and self-employed individuals. Around half of the total participants felt sich aids were needed.
What worries men more?
This period of social distancing when most men and women are required to stay indoors to break the chain of transmission. Men seemed to be more worried about helping out at home and playing a role in child care and home-schooling children while schools are closed. Men are also surprisingly more concerned about emotional abuse at home compared to women.
Speaking on the gender differences in deaths due to the infection, Professor Gabrielle Belz, chair of immunology at the University of Queensland, said in a statement, “We know women end up with more auto-immune-type diseases, and men tend to do more poorly in several viral infections. A lot of that is genetically encoded.”
UK researchers say that men are less likely to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently and thus more likely to catch a more severe infection. Professor Axel Kallies, who studies male and female immune systems, says men have higher immunity, “And males produce inflammatory mediators much more abundantly, or that their control mechanisms fail more easily. That’s my speculation here.” He explained that overwhelming inflammation could be the key to getting seriously ill with COVID-19.
- Covid-19 Social Study - panel study of the psychological and social experiences of adults in the UK during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus run by University College London - https://www.marchnetwork.org/research
- Epidemiological and clinical characteristics of 99 cases of 2019 novel coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan, China: a descriptive study, Chen, Nanshan et al., The Lancet, Volume 395, Issue 10223, 507 – 513, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30211-7/fulltext
- Factors associated with hospitalization and critical illness among 4,103 patients with COVID-19 disease in New York City
- Christopher M. Petrilli, Simon A. Jones, Jie Yang, Harish Rajagopalan, Luke F. O'Donnell, Yelena Chernyak, Katie Tobin, Robert J. Cerfolio, Fritz Francois, Leora I. Horwitz
- medRxiv 2020.04.08.20057794; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.08.20057794