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Image / Agenda / Breaking Stories

Ever wondered why there have been more female than male coronavirus deaths in Ireland? Wonder no more


by Lucy White
07th Aug 2020

Picture by Volodymyr Hryshchenko for Unsplash

Global statistics report that more men are dying from C-19 than women. We asked an immunologist why Ireland appeared to be an anomaly


Far from being the weaker sex, Sharon Moalem’s book The Better Half, released in April, explains that contrary to centuries of baseless belittlement, women are more biologically superior than men.

In the book, Moalem, a Canadian-born physician and research geneticist, explains how having two X chromosomes appears to given women an immunological advantage. While it is more difficult to “make” a female, once born, she’s better able to fight infection and survive a whole swathe of life threatening events, from exhaustion to starvation to cancer.

Greater female longevity used to be attributed to women being more risk averse than men: less likely to drink, smoke, drive irresponsibly, fight, go to war. But Moalem’s research concludes that our advantage is inborn. Throw in a dollop of oestrogen, which increases the antiviral response of immune cells, and that men were at a greater risk from past respiratory epidemics, including the 1918 Spanish flu, Sars and Mers, and it’s no surprise that, globally, around 60 per cent of men have succumbed to covid-19 compared to 40 per cent of women.

So why are Ireland’s figures showing that, at the time of writing, women have a 0.5 per cent lead, while 57 per cent of infections here are female and 43 per cent male? For clarity, we asked the expert, TCD’s biochemistry professor Luke O’Neill.

“There is no doubt that overall men are worse off than women – around 60:40 when it comes to deaths,” he says. “This is in a large population. For Ireland, though, it’s likely to be more women because there are more women in nursing homes and they are slightly older than men. Age is the big risk factor, as you know, so Ireland can be viewed as a statistical anomaly because we have more women who are older.”

As for why more women are contracting the virus in Ireland, while there’s no scientific data, it’s not rocket science: 80 per cent of healthcare workers are female and women do the lion’s share of unpaid caring work, from looking after young children to elderly parents. This includes making more errands, including grocery shopping, pharmacy and medical visits, therefore making themselves more vulnerable to infection.

It’s that simple/frustrating. Well, after all the XX and ACE-2 receptor protein stuff, that is.

This article was originally published in June 2020


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