More Men Than Women Are Dying From COVID-19, Research Shows

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Across the world and in the United States, there’s a gender pattern with coronavirus.

“Men are more likely to be hospitalized, get very sick with it and die of it,” says St. Clair Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. John T. Sullivan.

In Wuhan, China, up to two-thirds of hospitalized patients are male.

In Italy, nearly 60 percent are male.

Among 6,000 people hospitalized in New York City, 60 percent are male, with two out of every three in intensive care are male.

And the death rate is higher for males in every age group over 20 years old.

Nobody knows why, but when it comes to gender differences, it’s usually related to one of a few things.

“Genetic, hormonal, sociologic differences can explain things,” says Dr. Sullivan.

At first, smoking, which in China is more prevalent among men, was thought to explain it.

“The lung reserve is not as good as somebody who doesn’t smoke,” says AHN infectious diseases specialist Dr. Nikita Bhanot. “If you had a patient that had pneumonia and is a smoker, we know that they will probably do worse than somebody who is otherwise healthy and a non-smoker.”

But smoking is more equal in Europe, and yet the pattern holds.

Could sex hormones – such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone – play a role?

In Italy, men on testosterone-blocking drugs for prostate cancer fared better. Along those lines, a National Institutes of Health study is looking at whether men on ventilators who get progesterone injections have better outcomes.

But perhaps the genders aren’t as different as they seem on the surface.

“It’s not like 10 percent versus 90 percent. It’s not a huge difference you’re seeing,” Dr. Bhanot said.

The figures could look more similar after certain factors are taken into account.

“The ones who are dying, did they have more medical problems compared to women? Did they have more heart disease, hypertension, underlying kidney disease?” says Dr. Bhanot. “Are men presenting late to the hospital, later than women? Who knows, right? They want to fight it out, come later, so they are sick to begin with.”

“In Allegheny County, specifically, it’s interesting that more women have been diagnosed with it than men. More women have died in Allegheny County,” says Dr. Sullivan. “Approximately 60 percent of the tests in Allegheny County have been administered to women.”

At St. Clair Hospital, of a dozen ICU patients, half have been men. At the Allegheny Health Network, of 26 deaths, 20 were men.

But with the small numbers, any gender differences may not be meaningful.


By Dr. Maria Simbra – Reporter, KDKA