Men shoulder burden of COVID-19 deaths

Around two thirds of COVID-19 deaths are in men, according to latest statistics from the Office of National Statistics

Up to 10 April, there were 10 350 deaths registered in England and Wales involving COVID-19, 6348 men and 4002 women.

The majority of deaths involving COVID-19 have been among people aged 65 years and over (8998 out of 10350), with 39% (3485) of these occurring in the over-85 age group. The data also shows that individuals with underlying health problems – most commonly heart disease, followed by dementia and respiratory illnesses – accounted for 91% of cases where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate.

Statistics published by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) show that men make up 73% of admissions to critical care with COVID-19 and 75% of deaths.

Three quarters of admissions to critical care are in people who are overweight or obese (having a body mass index of 25 or more). 

Why men are more at risk than women is an unanswered question according to Alan White, Emeritus Professor of Men’s Health, Leeds Beckett University. Writing for the Men’s Health Forum he says: ‘There are several plausible  biological reasons why men are at greater risk than women. Testosterone is immunosuppressive, and the X chromosomes have genes related to immunity that may play a part.’

‘The angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor is the main route the virus uses to get into cells. ACE2 is more highly expressed in men than women. It is also more actively expressed in smokers and so with more men than women having a history of smoking it could increase their risk.’

‘Pre-existing chronic disease is a poor prognostic factor for COVID-19 survival and we know that men carry a significant burden of hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and chronic lung conditions.’

Professor White calls for all COVID-19 data to be broken down by gender as a necessity.

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