New Delhi: Nearly three-fourth of all novel coronavirus cases and deaths in India are among men, the Union health ministry informed Monday.
Of the 4,067 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, 76 per cent are in men compared to 24 per cent women, said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, ministry of health and family welfare. Given their disproportionate representation in cases, 73 per cent of the 109 deaths in the country due to Covid-19 were also reported in men.
Among the dead, 63 per cent were those over the age of 60 years, 30 per cent in the age group 41-60, and 7 per cent in those less than 40 years of age, Agarwal said at a press briefing.
Over 86 per cent of the dead had co-morbidities – simultaneous presence of two or more health conditions – like diabetes, chronic kidney disease and heart disease. Since elderly are more likely to be suffering from these ailments, they are represented higher in the number of deaths due to Covid-19, Agarwal said.
This is the first time the ministry has revealed the gender profile of the cases and deaths.
Men more affected in India
While more men than women are infected with the novel coronavirus around the world, the former’s share in cases in India is much higher than most other countries.
Germany (men 52 per cent and women 48 per cent), France (47 and 53), Italy (55 and 45) and China (51 and 49) have an almost equal share of case representation in men and women, according to data by Global Health 5050, an evidence-based initiative housed by the University College of London, Centre for Gender and Global Health.
Men more likely to die of Covid-19 world over
The World Health Organization’s weekly surveillance report showed that 70 per cent of the deaths in western Europe between 23 and 29 March were in men. Similar figures have been reported from most other countries too.
In South Korea, men account for 40 per cent of cases but 53 per cent of deaths, 52 per cent of cases and 65 per cent deaths in Germany and 55 per cent of cases and 69 per cent of deaths in Italy, according to Global Health 5050.
In India, a number of behavioural and health reasons could increase the exposure and risk for men. For instance, men are more likely to move around and get infected in the process, said Tanmoy Mahapatra, team lead, concurrent measurement and learning unit, Care India, a non-profit that is consulting with the Bihar government on its Covid-19 response.
“More men are smokers than women that impacts the immunity and affects their lung pathways, increasing their risk,” he said, adding that there is also a higher likelihood of men having pre-existing conditions like diabetes, hypertension, heart and kidney diseases.
Two Chinese researches show there could also be a strong biological factor behind men’s higher vulnerability to the novel coronavirus.
A study of 1,019 Covid-19 cases in six Chinese cities found that while men and women had the same susceptibility to the virus, the infection in the former was more severe and their likelihood of death higher.
This could be due to differences in the expression of a protein ACE2 — found in organs like lungs, kidney, intenstives — that is linked to regulating blood pressure, suggested the Chinese researchers in the study that hasn’t been peer reviewed yet. ACE2 levels were found to be higher in men and those with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Men and patients with diabetes and pre-existing diseases had higher levels of the protein, the researchers said, adding that further study on this mechanism is required.
Another Chinese study, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed, in 331 patients suggested that women’s bodies produced a higher number of antibodies than men in severe and early phase of novel coronavirus infection.
These studies are not yet conclusive, but point to the need for more research on why men and women’s bodies respond differently to Covid-19.