Are men at greater risk from COVID-19?

Dr Luke Powles
Clinical Director, Health Clinics Bupa Global and UK
03 November 2020
Next review due November 2023

This article was written in line with the best available evidence and guidelines at the time of publishing. It was originally published on 19th June and was updated on 4th November. Keep up-to-date with the latest guidelines on coronavirus at

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues, we’re still learning more about it. This includes information about which groups of people are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill. You might have seen reports saying that men are more likely to be affected and be worried about what this means.

As part of Men’s Health Month, this article explains what we know 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.

*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. But men seem more likely to become seriously unwell and, sadly, to die from it. This means men should be particularly careful about following the guidelines and seeking help if they become unwell.

There are also some men who are at an even greater risk because of other factors. This includes men who:

  • are aged 60 or older
  • are from ethnic minority backgrounds
  • are very obese (a BMI of over 40)
  • have certain health conditions and/or take certain medications or treatments that make them more vulnerable

Why are men more at risk?

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, but we don’t know if this is true for coronavirus yet.
  • 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 are also some other reasons that might play a part as well.

  • Men are more likely to smoke, which may 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 tend to drink more alcohol than women. This may be bad for the immune system and has been linked to other diseases that affect the lungs (although not coronavirus 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 might mean they don’t follow guidelines as strictly or don’t seek medical help as quickly as they should.

What can I do to protect myself?

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

  • practicing social distancing whenever possible
  • washing your hands regularly
  • wearing a face covering when required, for example when you go into a shop or if you’re using public transport
  • following the lockdown rules about when you can go outside your home

If you think you might have coronavirus, you and everybody in your household or bubble should stay at home. You’re only allowed to leave if you’re travelling to have a coronavirus test. Try to get a test as soon as you develop symptoms.

You should contact your GP or NHS 111 over the phone or online if your breathing becomes difficult, or if you can’t manage your symptoms at home. In a medical emergency you should still call an ambulance, but make sure you tell the operator you have coronavirus symptoms.

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:

It’s 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. If you are feeling isolated and alone, or you want to speak to somebody else, there are some organisations which can help, such as:

  • Samaritans for mental health support
  • Relate for relationship support
  • Age UK which offers support for older people

Dr Luke Powles
Dr Luke Powles
Clinical Director, Health Clinics Bupa Global and UK

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