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Are men at greater risk from COVID-19?

Associate Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics
19 June 2020

This article was written in line with the best available evidence and guidelines at the time of publishing. Keep up-to-date with the latest guidelines on coronavirus at gov.uk.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the more we’re learning about it. More data is emerging about which groups of people may be at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill. You might have seen reports saying that men are more likely to be affected and have concerns about what this means.

As part of Men’s Health Week, this article explains what we know so far about the risks of coronavirus for men. And I’ll share some tips on the things you can do to help keep yourself physically and mentally healthy.

a man outdoors

*This article uses the words “man” and “men” in line with the data that is being used by the government, and in clinical studies. There is currently a lack of data on how COVID-19 is specifically affecting trans, non-binary or intersex people. This means that we don’t yet know if the increased risk of coronavirus to men includes some of these groups.

Are men more at risk of getting coronavirus?

Research shows that both men and women are equally likely to catch coronavirus. However, men seem to be more likely to become seriously ill and sadly more likely to die from it. Current data shows that over 60 per cent of people who have died from coronavirus in England have been men. Research from China, where coronavirus was first identified, suggests that men might be twice as likely to die.

Why are men more at risk?

At the moment, scientists and doctors don’t know exactly why men are at greater risk, but there are some medical reasons that might explain it.

  • Men tend to have weaker immune responses to viruses, including some types of flu, although COVID-19 hasn’t yet been specifically studied.
  • Men are more likely to have pre-existing conditions that make them more vulnerable to becoming very ill with coronavirus. These include cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and diabetes. There also some other reasons that might play a part as well.
  • Men are more likely to smoke, which seems to be associated with more severe coronavirus symptoms and a higher risk of dying. Smoking can also mean you touch your mouth more, which may increase your risk of catching the virus.
  • Men are more likely to drink excess alcohol. This may be bad for the immune system and has been linked to other diseases that affect the lungs (although not COVID-19 specifically). Alcohol may also mean you become less careful about things like hand hygiene and social distancing.
  • Some research has found that men may be less worried about coronavirus than women. This may mean men might not follow guidelines as strictly or may not seek medical help as quickly as they should.

What’s important to consider?

The biggest risk factor for dying from COVID-19 is age, however, more men than women are dying across all age groups. This means older men should be particularly careful about following the guidelines.

It is important to remember that we don’t have lots of data yet, and more research is needed into how men and women respond differently to coronavirus.

What can I do?

The best way to stay safe is to follow government advice. This means:

  • practicing social distancing
  • washing your hands regularly
  • staying at home when you can
  • wearing a face covering on public transport or if you are visiting a hospital
  • consider wearing a face covering if you’re in enclosed public spaces

If you think you might have COVID-19 you can use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service to check your symptoms and get advice. You should contact your GP or NHS 111 if your breathing becomes difficult, or if you don’t get better after seven days.

How can I help to keep myself healthy?

There are some other things that you can do to try and keep yourself healthy more generally. These include:

  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • getting regular exercise
  • not drinking too much alcohol

It is also important to look after your mental health. Many people are worrying about the future and feeling unhappy at the moment, which is understandable. You might also be dealing with new challenges like spending lots of time with the people you live with or being unemployed.

Try to stay connected by talking to friends and family, or by meeting them safely if you can, in line with government rules. If you are feeling isolated and alone, or you want to speak to somebody else, there are some organisations which can help, such as:


Dr Luke Powles
Associate Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics

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