COVID-19: Why Do More Men Die Than Women?

By Shlomo Maital


Women live longer than men. It’s true. Here are the facts, from the World Health Organization:

     In 2019, more than 141 million children will be born: 73 million boys and 68 million girls.  

     Based on recent mortality risks the boys will live, on average, 69.8 years and the girls 74.2 years – a difference of 4.4 years.

       Life expectancy at age 60 years is also greater for women than men: 21.9 versus 19.0 years.

       Women have a longer life expectancy than men at all ages.

     Many years ago, when I studied demography at Princeton (at Ansley Coale’s famed Office of Population Research), this fact was true even then – and I read a study of monks and friars, in a monastery, whose life expectancy reflected the same advantage for women – so, it is not environmental factors that cause it.

     In fact, we’re not really sure why women live longer. There are many theories.

   And now, comes COVID-19. Writing in the daily Haaretz, Asaf Ronal observes that the mortality rate from COVID-19 for men is 2.8%, while the mortality rate for women is 1.7%. That is a massive difference. This is adjusted for age, and other factors.


   There are theories. Behavioral: Men are ‘heroes’ and seek medical care less than women. Physiological: Female hormones protect them. Immunological: Female immune systems work better. Biological: the ‘receptors’ viruses like to invade on human cells reside in part in Chromosome X, women have two copies of it, thus they are more susceptible, so their immune systems are more alert and wary to attack invaders.

       These are all theories. None have really been fully tested.

       And finally, my own observation: As we observe spatial separation here in Israel, and as I watch both men and women experts explain things and advise us on TV – again, as always, I am struck by how much better women are at delivering information, credibly, authentically, than men, given the same level of expertise and training.

     If only the men would leave it to the women – and just shut up. US President, are you listening? And Israeli PM?   Men — take care of yourselves.  Let the women run things.  They do it better.