Possible reasons men are worse affected by the coronavirus

Men are more likely to get severely ill and die from coronavirus disease, global statistics have shown.

Data from 21 hospitals in Wuhan, China, revealed 75% of all those that died from coronavirus are men.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, around 70 per cent of critically ill patients admitted to intensive care are males.

Data from other regions and centres have also shown a similar trend.

No difference was seen in rates of infection – studies show men and women catch the disease equally. The only difference is that men are more likely to get critically ill and die.

What could be the cause of this? Why does coronavirus affect men worse than women?

Experts are looking at a number of factors:

1. Alcohol

High consumption of alcohol damages the immune system and men are more likely to become chronic alcoholics.

Research has proven that how well a patient manages coronavirus largely depends on how active their immune system is. Immunocompromised individuals are at a higher risk of coronavirus disease.

Excessive drinking reduces the number and function of three important kinds of cells in your immune system – macrophages, T and C cells.

For safety, WHO recommends that everyone abstains from alcohol.

“Avoid alcohol altogether so that you do not undermine your own immune system and health and do not risk the health of others,” WHO said in its fact sheet.

“If you drink, keep your drinking to a minimum and avoid getting intoxicated.”

2. Smoking

Health experts have warned that smokers are at a greater risk of developing severe coronavirus complications. Chronic smokers who catch coronavirus are twice as likely to develop pneumonia and breathing complications.

According to the WHO, smokers may already have a lung disease or reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase the risk of serious illness.

Recent global data show more than one-third (35%) of men in the world smoke while just over 6% of women do. Also, smoking affects men and women differently, and women are more likely to become light smokers in contrast to most men that become heavy smokers.

3. Underlying health problems

Men and women age differently. Older men are in generally worse health condition than women. They tend to have higher rates of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and lung and cardiovascular disease, all of which have been linked to COVID-19 severity.

4. Immune function differences in men and women

Another possible reason for higher coronavirus deaths in men may be because women naturally have stronger immune defences than men.

“There are substantial differences in the immune system between males and females and these have a significant impact on outcome from a wide range of infectious diseases,” says immunologist Philip Goulder at the University of Oxford.

One key difference is that women have two X chromosomes per cell whereas men have one.

“A number of critical immune genes are located on the X chromosome,” says Goulder.

“As a result, this protein is expressed at twice the dose on many immune cells in females compared to males, and the immune response to coronavirus is therefore amplified in females!”

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