Different Covid-19 severity levels in men and women
On average, men are more severely affected by Covid-19. Cathérine Gebhard and her research team looked for an explanation.
On average, SARS CoV-2 infection has worse consequences for men than for women. Men are more likely to have a severe course of the disease and are thus more likely to die as a result. However, until recently it was unclear whether this was due to biological differences or gender-specific characteristics, i.e. sociocultural factors.
To address this question, Cathérine Gebhard and her research team from the University of Zurich conducted a study of 3005 Covid-19 patients from Switzerland as part of the SNSF's Special Call on Coronaviruses. They determined the gender-specific characteristics using a validated questionnaire and compiled the participants' clinical data from electronic medical records.
Analyses showed that male biological characteristics were associated with increased hospitalisation rates, need for artificial ventilation, and higher mortality, with no significant role for gender-specific characteristics. Interestingly, these differences disappeared after hospitalisation so that women no longer had an “advantage”. Assertiveness, strong personality, and lower level of education were the only gender-specific parameters that predicted disease severity. In the cohort studied, women had a lower educational level on average, indicating the initial inequality in the health distribution of the two groups.
The results of the study showed that men with Covid-19 have a higher risk of more severe disease progression than women with Covid-19 due to their biological characteristics, but only until they are hospitalised. Further research is needed to understand what causes these gender-specific differences. The risk factors identified in the study will be useful in future discussions and decision-making on additional protective measures and booster vaccinations.