Even in the Philippines, Men are More Vulnerable to COVID-19 Than Women

Why are women faring better than men against COVID-19?

Around the world, doctors and scientists are seeing something peculiar: a higher number of male COVID-19 patients than women.

In China, where the outbreak began, men accounted for around 60 percent of confirmed cases, and in South Korea, men account for around 62 percent of confirmed cases. In Italy, which currently has the highest COVID-19 death toll in the world, men account for almost 60 percent of cases and around 72 percent of deaths between February 21 and March 12. Italian authorities are also noting that men are dying at a higher rate than women from this global pandemic.

Based on this global data, men are clearly more at risk of getting and dying from COVID-19 than women, and the Philippines is no exception. Out of 552 confirmed cases, 318 patients are men and 234 are women. This means that males account for 57.6 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. And of the Philippines’ total 35 deaths, men accounted for 29 fatalities or 83 percent of deaths.  


Now the question remains: Why are men more vulnerable to COVID-19 than women?

A number of factors could be in play, from lifestyle factors like smoking—men smoke five times more than women in the Asia Pacific—to genetic factors, which is the more curious of the two.

In a lab experiment using mice, Dr. Stanley Perlman from the University of Iowa found that male mice were more vulnerable than females to SARS and MERS, both of which belong to the same coronavirus family as COVID-19.

Strangely enough, the experiment found that the death rate of female mice spiked when their ovaries were removed or they were injected with drugs that suppressed the female hormone estrogen. In short, the study found that there was something about estrogen that was protecting women from deadly coronaviruses.

There’s also something to be said about the X chromosome, which still deserves more investigation as to its immune-related genes and its ability to protect those with X chromosomes (of which women have two) from infectious diseases.

We still have a lot of gender-specific questions about COVID-19 and how we can protect people from it in the future. And when they have the time, scientists will find the answers we need after this whole thing (eventually) blows over.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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