The emerging trend in death demography across the world points to the fact that Covid-19 discriminates against me and ‘favours’ women in its capacity to cause death.
Other than age and health conditions, sex bias in coronavirus infection and death worry scientists who have not been able to unravel the mystery.
The trend was first observed in China, where one analysis found a fatality rate of 2.8% in men compared with 1.7% in women. Thenceforth, the trend has been seen in France, Germany, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Spain.
In Italy, men have accounted for 71% of deaths and, in Spain, data released on Thursday suggests twice as many men as women have died.
Professor Sarah Hawkes, director of the UCL Centre for Gender and Global Health says no-one currently the rationale for the difference.
Smoking was earlier suggested as a likely cause because inn China, nearly 50% of men but only about 2% of women smoke. Underlying differences in lung health were assumed to contribute to men suffering worse symptoms and outcomes.
The smoking hypothesis was supported by a report that found that smokers made up about 12% of those with less severe symptoms, but 26% of those who ended up in intensive care or died.
Smoking and behavioural factors from different gender may be causing the difference also. Smokers tend to touch their lips more and may share contaminated cigarettes.
Also, men are less careful with precautions. They are less likely to wash their hands, less likely to use soap, less likely to seek medical care and more likely to ignore public health advice. These are sweeping generalisations, but across a population could place men at greater risk.
Experts opine that more fundamental biological factors are likely to be at play. While there are higher proportions of male smokers in many countries – in Italy, about 28% of men and 19% of women smoke – the differences are nowhere near as extreme as in China.
Professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Sabra Klein observes that:“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”.
“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.”