Women far more likely to suffer ‘long COVID’ than men

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Women are far more likely to suffer from ‘long COVID’ than men, according to scientists. A new review of existing research into the still mysterious condition found females were 22 percent more likely to experience most of the complications that stem from the coronavirus.

Researchers say women are more at risk of ending up with ear, nose, and throat issues, along with low mood, skin problems, trouble digesting, painful joints, and fatigue. Diabetes and kidney disorders were more prominent side effects of the novel bug in men.

The researchers from the Johnson & Johnson Women’s Health Office say their findings highlight a need for facts and figures on the disease among both sexes to be collected and analyzed separately. Only by doing this can inequalities in how men and women experience the disease be addressed.

For the study, the team looked at existing studies which analyzed the effects of the disease on more than 1.3 million people. They limited their research to studies carried out between December 2019 and August 2020 for COVID, and to January 2020 to June 2021 for long COVID. Only 35 of the 640,634 articles in the literature have enough detail to understand how men and women experience the disease differently.

Existing research has looked extensively at sex differences in hospitalization, ICU admission, ventilation support, and mortality.

The study is among the first to break down the specific health conditions that occur as a result of COVID-related illness by sex.

“Knowledge about fundamental sex differences underpinning the clinical manifestations, disease progression, and health outcomes of COVID-19 is crucial for the identification and rational design of effective therapies and public health interventions that are inclusive of and sensitive to the potential differential treatment needs of both sexes,” the authors conclude in their paper.

The study is published in the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion.

“Differences in immune system function between females and males could be an important driver of sex differences in long COVID syndrome. Females mount more rapid and robust innate and adaptive immune responses, which can protect them from initial infection and severity, The paper explains. “However, this same difference can render females more vulnerable to prolonged autoimmune-related diseases. Sex differences in outcomes have been reported during previous coronavirus outbreaks. Therefore, differences in outcomes between females and males infected with SARS-CoV-2 could have been anticipated.

“Unfortunately, most studies did not evaluate or report granular data by sex, which limited sex-specific clinical insights that may be impacting treatment,” the authors continue. “Ideally, sex disaggregated data should be made available even if it was not the researcher’s primary objective, so other interested researchers can use the data to explore important differences between the sexes.”

South West News Service writer Gwyn Wright contributed to this report.