Men 62% more likely to die from COVID, greater inflammation may be why

REGENSBURG, Germany — It’s been discussed in vague terms for months that men appear to be more susceptible in general to the coronavirus than women. Now, a new study is providing more exact figures and a possible explanation for this discrepancy between genders.

The research, conducted at University Hospital Regensburg, concludes that men have a 62% higher risk of a COVID-19 associated death in comparison to women. Researchers say it may be due to higher levels of inflammation among male coronavirus patients.

To come to these findings, the authors analyzed 3,129 adults who were treated for COVID-19 between March and July of this year. For each patient, they had access to data pertaining to both socio-demographics and co-morbidities.

Analysis of male COVID patients versus female

The progression of each patient’s condition was classified over time according to four phases: uncomplicated (asymptomatic/mild symptoms); complicated (need for oxygen assistance); critical (need for critical care); and recovery. Across each phase, patients’ vital signs, symptoms, inflammatory markers, and treatment methods were recorded.

Among the entire patient group, the male-female ratio was 1.48. Moreover, there were more men receiving coronavirus treatments than women across all age groups. That being said, this abundance of male patients over female patients is most obvious among the 65-75 year old age group. More men also showed signs of coronary artery disease (18% vs 10%), and admitted to being smokers (14.5% vs 10.5%).

The study also shows that men have more admissions to ICU care (thus placed in the “critical” phase) than women (30.6% vs 17.2%). In all, male patients spent more time in the hospital than females (15.4 vs 13.3 days).

When it comes to patients who died, men were more likely to suffer a COVID-related death than women (17.1% vs 10.3%).

Men show higher levels of inflammation ‘during all phases of COVID-19’

All in all, even after accounting for other factors, researchers calculate that men have a 62% higher overall chance of passing away from COVID-19-associated causes. Researchers say that male patients shows significantly higher markers of inflammation (IL-6, CRP, PCT, ferritin) during all four aforementioned phases.

“Men are more likely to progress to critical phases of COVID-19. Men have higher death rates as well as more frequent ICU admissions and longer hospital stays, that are all associated with higher inflammatory parameters during all phases of COVID-19. In our cohort, this effect was not explained by differences in comorbidities, age or BMI between male and female patients,” researchers conclude in a media release.

“We need further studies on what exactly makes men more vulnerable to COVID-19”, study leader Dr. Frank Hanses adds. “We do not yet know which biological or possibly social factors lead to these marked differences.”

This research is being presented at the ESCMID Conference on Coronavirus Disease.