Study Finds Men With COVID-19 Have A Higher Chance For ICU Admission Than Women

The coronavirus pandemic has hit men worldwide harder than women, with men three times as likely to require an intensive treatment unit and also higher odds of death, according to a new global analysis published this month in the journal Nature Communications.

Researchers from the University of Cape Town in South Africa and from the University College London analyzed more than 3 million COVID-19 cases from January to June. They reviewed data from 90 reports involving 44 states in the United States and 46 countries overall, winding up with about 1.57 million cases affecting women in the study and about 1.53 million cases affecting men (via CNN).

However, when they checked data on more than 12,000 admissions to hospital intensive care units, they noticed that about 4,000 of those were women while about 8,000 of those were men. The disparity between the sexes appeared again when they looked at the data for more than 200,000 coronavirus deaths in the study. About 91,000 were women while about 120,000 were men.

Men have proven more susceptible to other viruses, researchers say

The researchers said they aren't sure why sex appears to be a risk factor, but they noted, "An appreciation of how sex is influencing COVID-19 outcomes will have important implications for clinical management and mitigation strategies for this disease." They found no significant differences in the proportions of adults in the study with diabetes, high blood pressure, and other risk factors.

Generally speaking, men have "an overall higher burden of bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infection," the researchers wrote, noting that differences between men and women in the "prevalence and outcomes of infectious diseases [that] occur at all ages." They cited data from the SARS outbreak of Hong Kong and Singapore from 2002 to 2004, where men showed a higher risk of death or admission to an intensive care unit, as well as a higher risk of death during the 2013 to 2014 MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia.

While socioeconomic factors may influence some aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, a driving factor in this latest data is likely to be "fundamental differences in the immune response between males and females," they wrote.