Why More Men Than Women Are Dying From Coronavirus

Early statistics show men are 50% more likely to die from coronavirus. One theory about what’s giving women the advantage is their genetics. Dr. Sharon Moalem’s new book “The Better Half” is an exploration of exactly that. He joins the program alongside author and activist Caroline Criado Perez, whose book “Invisible Women” argues that there’s a general data bias in research that ignores women.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: In those countries which are providing statistical breakdown in terms of gender, we can see, and you can see there — or at least our viewers can see on the graph that Italy, China, Germany, Iran, France, South Korea, all, to one extent or another, have this result. So carry on a little bit and tell me what — I mean, you clearly are not surprised, because you have written the book about this.


AMANPOUR: But did you think — and has it shown up before to this extent in other pandemics or diseases?

MOALEM: It has. This is a very old story when it comes to humanity, unfortunately. If it’s famine or pandemics, the Grim Reaper always takes a much bigger pound of flesh from men. And so, if we’re thinking about it, wherever we have data in the past, such as Sweden, which experienced really horrific famines during the 18th century, or in the Ukraine that had very severe famines during the 1930s, more men always died over women. And so the — what we’re actually seeing play out — and this is what I predicted in the book — was that, although men have more muscle mass and are larger and physically stronger because of that muscle mass, biologically, they’re much more fragile, and they’re not able to survive these biological challenges. And I think what it was, because we had this perception of male strength, this is the surprise that people have now as they see the stark data coming in from all these countries, and, unfortunately, the numbers of men dying. And, in fact, even when you’re saying 60 to 70 percent, that’s not really telling you the degree to which that death is actually taking place, because, over the age of 70, because men really don’t live that long, only 25 percent of the people still alive are men. So that small group of 25 percent of men are making up the majority of people who are dying. So what we’re experiencing right now is almost like an entire generation being wiped out.

AMANPOUR: It’s really incredible to think about. I’m going to turn to Caroline Criado Perez now, who wrote “Invisible Women,” as we said Caroline, what else can you factor in? I mean, I haven’t asked the doctor this yet, but are there other statistics that could account for this, like behavior, for instance, whether it’s smoking or drinking or whatever it might be?

CAROLINE CRIADO PEREZ, AUTHOR, “INVISIBLE WOMEN”: Yes. Yes. I mean, so that’s why it’s so important that we are collecting sex- disaggregated data right from the very beginning. What are the sex differences in symptoms? What are the sex differences in who’s getting tests? What are the sex differences in cases that are testing positive? And we just don’t have that data globally. And so it’s hard to know the extent to which it will be sex, which obviously will be playing a role. But there is a possibility that gender will also be playing a role, so, for example, men being more likely to smoke, men being less likely to wash their hands. But a lot of those would — you would be able to tell more easily which is more likely if we knew the number of cases vs. the number of deaths, which we just don’t have enough data on to be able to say one way or the other.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane speaks with Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman about the economic impacts of coronavirus and Caroline Criado Perez and Dr. Sharon Moalem about why more men than women are getting infected. Dr. Robert Gallo joins Walter Isaacson for an exclusive conversation about how the oral polio vaccine might be a short-term treatment for coronavirus.