Coronavirus latest: Why are men more at risk of COVID-19?

Statistics from the Office for National Statics (ONS) revealed that twice as many men died from COVID-19 in England and Wales in March, with previous research also finding that men are more likely to suffer. A study in February from China found males are slightly more at risk than females, with the research pointing out 68 percent of people infected by the coronavirus were males.

Why males are more susceptible to the disease has remained a mystery, but one researcher believes he could have the answer.

Daniel Kelly, a lecturer in biochemistry at the Sheffield Hallam University, believes it could come down to testosterone.

It is no secret that the overwhelming male hormone is testosterone, while for females it is oestrogen.

Previous research has found that testosterone can dampen the immune system, while oestrogen can give it a boost.


This may also suggest that ‘man-flu’ is not as big of a myth as many suspected, as higher levels of testosterone could in fact hinder the body’s fight against infection and disease.

Mr Kelly wrote for The Conversation: “One theory is that the male sex hormone, testosterone, has a dampening effect on the immune system, making men more susceptible to the novel coronavirus. But just how plausible is this theory?

“An overview of the scientific evidence suggests that oestrogen (the main female hormone) can improve the immune system and increase immune inflammation whereas testosterone (the male sex hormone) reduces or dampens the response.

“As a result, women often have less severe infections than men and have significantly stronger immune responses to vaccinations (which are essentially less potent versions of a virus).

“Men with higher levels of testosterone may have weakened immunity and have been shown to produce the lowest antibody responses to annual flu vaccinations.”

COVID-19 could act as a sort of vicious cycle to men too, which could explain why men are more severely affected.

According to Mr Kelly, initial studies have revealed that the coronavirus could lower testosterone in men.

While lower testosterone theoretically should boost the immune system, the body will not be wanting to undergo changes to its chemicals while it is fighting a deadly disease.

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Mr Kelly said: “A major factor in how severe an infection may become is whether a person has an underlying disease.

“While this is easy to understand, what is not so clear is the effect that the reduced levels of testosterone that happen during illness have on the likelihood of the infection developing into something more severe in men.

“It has been recently shown that COVID-19 reduces testosterone levels in men by altering the functioning of the gonads.”

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