On Tuesday morning, an article by The New York Times asked the question: ‘Can oestrogen, other sex hormones produced by women help men survive coronavirus?’
Scientists on the Eastern and Western coast of the United States are now conducting clinical trials where they will dose men with hormones predominantly found in women. Of course, men have traces of the hormones in them, as do women have minute traces of testosterone, but that amount, it is assumed, is not enough for fight the virus.
However, while this debate continues, there are other studies that show that gender does not have a role to play. According to GlobalHealth5050, an independent research initiative that tracks gender and health, barring India and Pakistan that saw more men contract the disease than women, other countries saw an almost equal distribution of the virus, while South Korea has recorded more women patients than men.
On April 6, the Ministry of Health said that 76 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women patients in India had contracted coronavirus. However, the study failed to note the gender gap in India and Pakistan. India, according to a Niti Aayog report in 2015, recorded 900 women to 1,000 men, while Pakistan has, according to World Bank data, 919 women to 1,000 males. Iceland, which has recorded the highest gender gap in the world, meanwhile, recorded 1,792 cases of coronavirus has an almost equal division of coronavirus cases by gender in the country.
Furthermore, the gender gap in essential services in India is also a factor. 7.5 per cent women are in the police force; medical facilities have also shown a lack of women in the workspace. Only 17% of all allopathic doctors and 6% of those in rural India are women, despite more women medical students.
Another factor that needs to be taken into consideration in these two countries that have recorded high cases of coronavirus is that men tend to be an integral part of the workforce – whether it’s a white collared worker or a daily-wage labourer. This means that men will be in close proximity to someone who has an infection and in the process, contract it.
Data that has been collected so far from across the world shows that those who have suffered from COVID-19 had underlying health conditions such as blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease and other lifestyle-induced conditions.
According to a study in Harvard Health, men die younger than women, and are burdened by illness during life. They end up having more chronic illnesses than women. Other factors like biological factors play a role, but social factors such as work stress and behavioural factors such as aggression, smoking and excessive drinking, make men more susceptible to lifestyle disease and in the process, to coronavirus.
While men in India are prone to develop lifestyle diseases in their 30s, women tend to develop them a couple of decades later - in their 50s, says a study.
Indian men between the ages of 30-44 years have a high incidence of high LDL --low density lipoprotein, or the so called "bad cholesterol" -- one of the major causes for a variety of lifestyle diseases, showed the findings from the survey by home diagnostic service provider Healthians in 2019.
However, for women this high risk becomes a reality once they cross the age of 50 -- the risk being highest between the ages of 50-59.
And the older people are more prone to the coronavirus, as the WHO has said in a study. And senior citizens with lifestyle diseases are even more prone to the disease, given what the Harvard study suggests.
While there is no conclusive evidence that men are more prone to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, one thing is for certain, at least from the data collected: the greater the lifestyle risk and the more exposure you have to people with infectious disease, the more prone you are to the coronavirus.