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HEALTH PLUS MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT

Does COVID-19 affect men more severely?

According to data from the National Institutes of Health, men seem to be affected more severely by COVID-19 than women. Other studies from early research suggest men are also dying at a higher rate from COVID-19 than women.

A Gallup poll from April 2021 found that 80 percent of women were concerned about catching COVID-19 versus 68 percent of men. Women also seemed to take the threat of the virus more seriously than men. In several countries, including the Netherlands, Dominican Republic and Spain, about twice as many men as women have died from COVID-19.

It remains a mystery, and health officials are researching avidly to determine if the reason falls to behaviour, hormones, genes or the immune system, or some combination of all. The disparity probably has several causes.

Men are dying from COVID more than women

Although age is the biggest risk factor when it comes to higher death rates, there is also a gender gap. Global Health 50/50, a group devoted to equality of the sexes in health, finds that “In most countries, available data indicates that men have been upwards of 50 percent more likely to die following diagnosis than women.”

Historically, women live on average six years longer than men, who tend to have higher rates of underlying chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. According to a recent article in the Harvard Health, they have a 20 percent higher chance of developing cancer, for example, but they are less likely to have health insurance or go to the doctor. In 2019, American men between 18 and 64 accounted on average for $3,979 in health-care spending, compared with $5,447 for women in the same age range.

Because COVID-19 patients with underlying health issues fall victim to the virus more often, health experts believe that men having a higher number of these underlying conditions is a factor in why men die of the coronavirus more than women.

THE GENDER GAP OF HEALTH

The Immune System

The immune system may hold other clues. An emerging body of research has revealed that women’s bodies are better at fighting off almost all infectious diseases than men, possibly thanks to the hormones in their systems and the genes on their two X chromosomes. For instance, women with acute HIV infections have 40 percent less viral genetic material in their blood than men and women are less susceptible to the viruses that cause hepatitis B and C.

Social Factors

With health concerns, the data clearly shows that men delay seeking medical care more than women do. The psychology of why men hesitate to visit doctors is an age-old question. Are they too busy? Not “sick enough?” Do they think a doctor’s visit is going to be uncomfortable? Are they afraid of what might be discovered? An online survey commissioned by Harvard Health found that it’s a mixture of all these things.

According to the survey, the top excuse men make to avoid seeking health care is that they are too busy. The second-most common excuse? They are “afraid of finding out something might be seriously wrong.” Finally, the discomfort of some annual exams (such as prostate checks, testicular exams, colon cancer screenings and the like) is another top reason men don’t go to doctors. Another study from the National Institutes of Health theorized that men may fear looking vulnerable and often only seek care when encouraged by their female partners.

Until the complexities of sex differences in the severity of COVID-19 are properly understood, we should use the reliable information that we do have. With all health concerns, men should seek the advice of their doctor early to minimise their risk of chronic disease, which we know will not only improve their health and well-being overall, but will reduce their risk of being severely affected by COVID-19.

COVID-19 pandemic is affecting both the mental and physical health of men

A national survey by Cleveland Clinic in JUNE 2021 reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting both the mental and physical health of men and as a result, some men are negatively impacted while others are making healthier choices.

Key survey findings:

Men May Not MENtion It, but COVID-19 is Taking a Toll on Their Mental Health

• Three-in-five men (59 percent) feel COVID-19 has had a greater negative impact on their mental health than the 2008 recession.

• 66 percent of men say they rarely talk about the impact COVID-19 has had on their mental health.

Many Men Struggle to Stay Healthy During the Pandemic

• Half of men (48 percent) have put off seeing a doctor for non-COVID-19 related health issues over the last few months – this is even higher among men 18-34 (56 percent).

• 40 percent of men say they are struggling to stay healthy during COVID-19.

• A quarter (24 percent) of men report weight gain during the pandemic.

While some are struggling, COVID-19 has inspired healthier habits in others

• Nearly half of men (45 percent) feel healthier now than before the COVID-19 outbreak.

• Roughly one-quarter of men have started sleeping more (28 percent), while a fifth have been exercising more (22 percent) and eating healthier (19 percent) since the COVID-19 outbreak.

• A quarter (23 percent) have been spending more time with family/friends virtually, likely as a way of coping with social distancing.

Men Could do More to Protect Themselves Against COVID-19

• While the majority (70 percent) have been wearing face masks in public as a means of protection against COVID-19, nearly a third (30 percent) of men have not been.

• Younger men 18 to 34 are less likely to avoid gathering in large groups to protect themselves against COVID-19 (51 percent), especially compared to older men 55 and up (67 percent).

Most Men Are Optimistic About the Future Despite COVID-19

• While 64 percent don’t see an end to the COVID-19 outbreak in sight, the majority (71 percent) still remain optimistic about the future as the world continues to battle COVID-19, suggesting the pandemic hasn’t dampened spirits completely.