Why Covid-19 is different for men and women

Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from BBC Future

Martha Henriques | 12 April 2020
Covid-19 has profoundly different outcomes for men and women – and not just in terms of their health. For a virus that infects people indiscriminately, why does gender have such an effect?

From bus drivers to prime ministers, people from all walks of life are falling seriously ill with Covid-19. This has drawn remarks that the disease doesn’t discriminate. The coronavirus is, after all, a more-or-less inanimate piece of floating genetic material. It is not capable of active discrimination.

And yet the virus is having starkly different effects on different groups of people.

One of the most pronounced divides to emerge regards gender. And how Covid-19 is affecting men and women differently isn’t just in the way that the virus is making us sick – it’s also in our long-term health and economic prospects.

Disease differences

One of the most striking differences that has emerged so far is in the death rates of men and women.

In the US, for example, twice as many men have been dying from the virus as women. Similarly, 69% of all coronavirus deaths across Western Europe have been male. Similar patterns have been seen in China and elsewhere.

One team of researchers, led by Anna Purdie at University College London, is charting the gender differences in various countries and working to find out more about why.

For now, the reason is still unclear.