Men more vulnerable to COVID-19 than women, affirms US study

February 8, 2021
Men more vulnerable to COVID-19 than women, affirms US study

Men, independent of age, are much more likely to contract COVID-19, suffer from severe complications, and die from the disease than women, according to new epidemiological observations. Led by Farhaan Vahidy from the Houston Methodist Research Institute, the study set out to investigate the association between biological sex and COVID-19 in nearly 100,000 subjects in Houston, Texas.

Early observation was that males were more susceptible to COVID-19 due to gender differences in social behaviours – CDC report published in July 2020 suggested men are more likely to downplay the risk of COVID-19, disregard preventative advice such as social distancing and mask-wearing, and engage in high-risk activities such as attending public gatherings.

However, Vahidy’s study results suggest that the differences may not primarily be social or behavioural, but due to base biological risk determinants.

The results revealed men were more likely to test positive for the virus, were more likely to be admitted into intensive care, and ultimately more likely to die from the disease. These sex differences studied were still present even after adjusting for, “age, race, ethnicity, marital status, insurance type, median income, BMI, smoking and up to 17 comorbidities.”

“While gender-related behaviours such as smoking, drinking, the propensity to seek hospital care and presence of comorbidities could affect the outcome of COVID-19, the increased risk of death seen in males across several different cultures in the world point to biological risk determinants,” Vahidy and colleagues write.

It is not unusual for diseases to affect men and women differently, as observed with COVID-19. Hypotheses abound, including sex-based immune differences leading to variances in disease severity, among others.

It is therefore important to examine sex-disaggregated data to “improve understanding of the biological processes involved to potentially tailor treatment and risk stratify patients,” concludes Vahidy.

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Category: Education, Features

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