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Why Are Men More Likely to Die from Coronavirus?

May 25 2020 Read 453 Times

As new data starts to emerge about the novel coronavirus, the Office for National Statistics has identified an alarming trend suggesting men are more likely to die from the infectious disease than women. The same pattern has been identified in almost all countries with high rates of infection, though scientists have yet to determine why males are more at risk than their female counterparts.

From the very beginning, it was clear both the ageing population and people with underlying health conditions are more at risk of developing the life-threatening symptoms caused by COVID-19. Now, new data from the Office for National Statistics reveals the disease also discriminates against men, with males almost 50% more likely to die.

Global statistics support male discrimination

The statistics supports a study conducted in China, which reveals the fatality rate for men is 2.8% compared to 1.7% for women. Countries such as France, Italy, Germany, South Korea and Iran have also reported similar patterns. The trend is particularly noticeable in Italy, where 71% of COVID-19 deaths were men.

Smoking identified as potential factor

While scientists aren’t sure why COVID-19 death rates are higher in men, some experts say it could be linked to smoking. COVID-19 attacks the lungs, which means that smokers are more at risk. In China, around 50% of men smoke, compared to just 2% of women. For some experts, this is a link worth investigating. As well as weakening the lungs, the World Health Organisation says smokers are more at risk of contracting COVID-19 as their fingers are more regularly in contact with the lips, which can facilitate hand-to-mouth transmission.

Experts explore biological factors

The idea that fundamental biological factors could play a role in higher male mortality rates is also gaining momentum. For Sabra Klein, a Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the existence of a universal driver is far more likely than a lifestyle factor such as smoking.

“The growing observation of increased mortality in men is holding true across China, Italy, Spain. We’re seeing this across very diverse countries and cultures,” says Klein. “When I see that, it makes me think that there must be something universal that’s contributing to this. I don’t think smoking is the leading factor.”

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