March 8, 2020
Women Are Substantially Less Likely To Die From Coronavirus Due To Immune System Differences

A growing number of studies are suggesting that women are substantially less susceptible to the effects of the deadly coronavirus than men. According to The South China Morning Post, a new study has suggested that as many as 70 percent of deaths are men. Scientists, so far, have largely blamed the findings on both a difference in immune systems and outside factors, but have yet to understand the specifics of the discrepancy.

The paper that found that 70 percent of deaths are men was a study of 1,000 patients across China, a little over a third of whom died in Wuhan. Researchers also noted that in addition to being more likely to die, men also suffered from worse effects.

The virus was "more likely to affect older males with comorbidities, and can result in severe and even fatal respiratory diseases," the paper concluded.

Other studies have published similar claims. One that tracked 47 coronavirus patients, again in China, noted that of the patients whose condition worsened from severe to critical, 83 percent were men. In addition, men accounted for just 20 percent of coronavirus patients leaving the hospital.

An even larger study, comprised of 44,000 infected patients, claimed mortality of 2.8 percent for men, versus 1.7 percent for women, as reported by BBC.

Doctors have pointed out that men are more likely to be smokers and have other lung or heart issues, which may be one of the reasons that they suffer more from both the coronavirus and other diseases that affect the lungs, such as the flu and SARS.

woman in wheelchair with coronavirus mask and carer
Getty Images | Marco Di Lauro

However, another possible reason is that the immune systems of men and women work differently.

"Women have intrinsically different immune responses to men, women are more likely to suffer from auto-immune diseases and there is good evidence that women produce better antibodies to vaccines against flu," explained University of East Anglia professor Paul Hunter.

The research comes after scientists similarly noted that children seem to be nearly immune to the disease. Officials noted that out the first 35,000 infected patients with the coronavirus, not a single one was under the age of 15. Though there have been instances of infected children since that original statistic, the rates remain far below those for adults.

That said, there is one way in which COVID-19 is hitting women worse than men. The South China Morning Post noted that women have reported that the crisis has had a larger effect on their mental health, with females 6.7 percent more likely to say they were depressed due to the epidemic. In addition, women were 2.4 percent more likely to report anxiety and 4.4 percent more likely to suffer from insomnia.