COVID-19 gender susceptibility and outcomes: A systematic review

PLoS One. 2020 Nov 3;15(11):e0241827. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0241827. eCollection 2020.


Background: Epidemiological differences between men and women have been reported with regards to sepsis, influenza and severe coronavirus infections including SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.

Aim: To systematically review the literature relating to men versus women on SARS-CoV-2 in order to seek differences in disease characteristics (e.g. infectivity, severity) and outcomes (e.g. mortality).

Methods: We searched 3 electronic databases up or observational studies reporting differences between men and women in the SARS-CoV-2 disease characteristics stated. We identified and included 47 studies, reporting data for 21,454 patients mainly from China.

Results: The unadjusted mortality rates of men were higher than those of women, with a mortality OR 0.51 [0.42, 0.61] (p<0.001) for women. The proportion of men presenting with severe disease and admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) was also higher than that of women (OR 0.75 [0.60-0.93] p<0.001 and OR 0.45 [0.40-0.52] p<0.001 respectively). Adjusted analyses could not be conducted due to lack of data.

Conclusion: COVID-19 may be associated with worse outcomes in males than in females. However, until more detailed data are provided in further studies enabling adjusted analysis, this remains an unproven assumption.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus / isolation & purification
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Coronavirus Infections / mortality
  • Coronavirus Infections / pathology
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnosis*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / mortality
  • Pneumonia, Viral / pathology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors

Grant support

This work was supported by the department of anesthesiology and intensive care unit of Nord Hospital, Marseille, France.