Does Coronavirus Hit Men Harder? What Men Need to Know

Health Conditions

Does Coronavirus Hit Men Harder? What Men Need to Know

Asthma.COVID-19.Diabetes
Ilima Loomis
By Ilima Loomis
Jul 01, 2020
Nicole Craven, MD
Medically Reviewed ByNicole Craven, MD
Two men wearing masks are loading their groceries in the car during COVID-19

While much is still unknown about COVID-19, how exactly it spreads, and why it makes some people sicker than others, multiple studies in various geographic regions around the world have shown an increased percentage of hospitalizations and deaths among men compared to women.

Studies are showing, men seem to have higher rates of infection, are more likely to be hospitalized, and are more likely to die of the disease.

  • In March, a study of those hospitalized in the US, showed, “males may be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 compared with females.”
  • Of 4,000 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in New York City, 62% were men. A UK study found that 70% of coronavirus patients who required intensive care were male.
  • Worldwide, men make up 70% of all reported COVID-19 deaths, and one case series showed men are more than twice as likely to die from the disease.
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Why Are Men More Vulnerable to COVID-19 Complications?

Early in the pandemic, scientists thought that the gender gap might be due to the fact that men in China are much more likely to be smokers, a known risk factor for the disease. But studies found that men are at higher risk even in countries where rates of smoking between men and women are the same.

Now scientists are investigating what it is about men that makes them more susceptible. Is it a behavioral difference, a biological one, or a mix of both?

The likelihood that men’s vulnerability to COVID-19 is higher than women isn’t entirely a surprise. Previous coronaviruses, including the 2003 outbreak of SARS, were also deadlier for men than for women. It’s possible that the immune system may play a role. Women showed a more vigorous immune response than men to previous coronavirus strains. While this active immune system is one reason women are more likely to suffer from autoimmune disorders, it also may give them more protection from viruses, including COVID-19.

Other research suggests the testicles might be to blame. One pilot study found that a protein produced by the testes plays an important role in spreading COVID-19 throughout the body, but research is still in the preliminary stage needing large scale studies to confirm this.

Researchers are also studying whether the male sex hormone androgen plays a role in vulnerability. Doctors in Spain reported that men with male pattern baldness, a trait linked with higher androgens, were more likely to be hospitalized for coronavirus.

And a study of prostate cancer patients in Italy found that men who received medication to suppress androgens as part of their treatment were less likely to contract COVID-19 than those who didn’t. They had lower rates of hospitalization and death as well.

Men Are Taking More Chances with COVID-19

Along with biology, men’s behavior may play a role in increasing risk. Past research has found that women are less likely to engage in risky behavior than men, and are also more likely to wash their hands, both of which protect from COVID-19. National testing data has revealed that men are less likely to get tested for coronavirus, which could mean that they aren’t seen by doctors until the disease has progressed and their symptoms are more severe.

Despite evidence to the contrary, a recent study found that men are less likely than women to believe they’re at risk from COVID-19. A Gallop poll of Americans found that men are less likely to wear face masks because they think they are “not cool” and “a sign of weakness.”

What Men Should Do To Prevent COVID-19

First and foremost, it’s important for men to stay informed and understand their risk. Age and certain underlying medical conditions increase vulnerability for COVID-19. That means men should be even more careful if they’re over age 65, or if they have health issues including:

  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease (like COPD or pulmonary fibrosis)
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension

There are a number of steps men can take to protect themselves and others from COVID-19:

Practice Social Distancing

The CDC recommends staying at least six feet away from other people when you go out in public. While it’s especially important to keep your distance from someone who’s coughing or showing signs of illness, remember that people can be contagious even if they’re not yet showing symptoms.

Wear a Mask

The CDC recommends that everyone wear a cloth mask or face covering. You can spread COVID-19 to others even if you don’t think you’re sick or have any symptoms. By wearing a mask, you can reduce the risk of infecting your loved ones and the people around you. Remember that a face mask isn’t a substitute for social distancing, but can provide additional protection.

Wash Your Hands

Frequent hand washing can help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before eating or touching your face, after touching surfaces or being in a public place, and after coughing or sneezing. If you’re not in a place where you can wash your hands, clean your hands thoroughly with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The CDC also recommends avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands.

Disinfect Surfaces

Clean frequently touched areas like countertops, door handles, light switches, phones, faucets, and other surfaces, and wipe them down with a household disinfectant.

Watch for Symptoms

Call your doctor if you experience symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, nausea, and loss of taste or smell. Often the first sign of illness is a sore throat. Don’t go out in public if you may be sick. If you or someone you know experiences emergency warning signs including difficulty breathing, chest pressure, disorientation, difficulty staying awake, or lips turning blue, call 911 or go to the emergency room.

The large majority of people who contract COVID-19 go on to recover, but for some, it can cause serious or even life-threatening complications. There’s currently no known effective treatment for this disease. While men are reported to be at higher risk, they can protect themselves, and their loved ones, by taking common-sense steps to avoid getting infected.

Ilima Loomis

Ilima Loomis

Ilima Loomis is a freelance writer and journalist who specializes in writing about health care, HR, science, travel, and Hawaii. You can find more of her work at ilimaloomis.com. Ilima is a regular contributor to the RxSaver blog.

Nicole Craven, MD

Nicole Craven, MD

Nicole Craven, MD is a fellowship-trained integrative medicine doctor, modern health content writer, editor, and holistic health educator. Trained by the AMWA and Nascent Medical to provide medical news, publications, CME, test preparation, white papers, and other scientific content. She focuses on natural wellness, products, and services that support the growth of a modern prevention-based healthcare system.

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