Whether it’s affected your job, touched your family, or simply altered the world around you, none of us can say that the COVID-19 pandemic has had no impact on our lives. However, when it comes to actually contracting the virus and suffering from its effects, research has shown that men are disproportionately coming up positive for COVID-19.
At ZestED, we want men to not only understand their risk factors, but see a clear course of action for doing everything they can to protect themselves against COVID-19. Let’s discuss what may be causing this discrepancy, and what you and your men’s health specialist can do about it:
What Are the Biological Factors?
Believe it or not, there are actually differences in immune and inflammatory responses between men and women, beginning at a chromosomal level. Many of your immune-related genes are found in the X chromosome, which results in many women having a stronger immune response to infections than men. Additionally, immune responses are regulated in part by estrogen and progesterone sex hormones. Although these hormones are found in every human body regardless of gender, they are more innately plentiful in the bodies of women than men. Because of these hormonal factors, women’s immune systems may be more equipped to fight a virus such as COVID-19 should they become infected.
Another biological factor contributing to COVID-19’s disproportionate effect on men is the fact that men generally have higher levels of an enzyme called plasma ACE2. Studies on COVID-19 have shown that plasma ACE2 is being used by the virus to enter the human body. Therefore, higher concentrations of plasma ACE2 can make men more susceptible to infection in the first place.
What Are the Behavioral Factors?
Naturally, biological factors aren’t the end all be all for men’s increased vulnerability to COVID-19. There are also behavioral and societal factors that place men at a higher risk of contracting the virus and for suffering complications as a result. Studies show that due to gendered societal expectations, men are more likely than women to engage in the following behaviors that put them at risk for COVID-19:
- Downplaying the severity of the pandemic
- Believing they are less vulnerable to disease than others
- Attending high-density gatherings against advice and regulations
- Refusing to wear masks
- Foregoing proper handwashing techniques
Additionally, men have generally been shown to engage more frequently in certain risky behaviors such as tobacco use and alcohol consumption that may make a COVID-19 diagnosis both more likely and more fatal.
With that said, some of the behavioral risk factors disproportionately affecting men are beyond their control. Occupational risk factors exist for workers in industries dominated by men, such as transportation, delivery, warehouse, construction, and manufacturing. This leads to a greater number of men being affected by COVID-19 by default.
What Can Men Do to Protect Themselves?
Fortunately, many of the ways you as a man can protect yourself from COVID-19 are within your control. It’s important not to give in to any societal pressures that tell you “fear” of a deadly, widespread pandemic is a sign of weakness or cowardice. Think of it this way: precautions such as rigorous hand washing, social distancing and wearing a mask aren’t just designed to protect you. They’re also designed to protect the people around you, including your spouse, your children, your parents, and your community. It’s also important to advocate for your safety and speak up at your place of employment whenever you can, especially if you feel that unsafe practices are being allowed or encouraged. Your health matters, and you deserve to be protected while on the job, no matter which industry you work in.
If you have concerns about how COVID-19 may affect you specifically as a man, there’s no need to sit in silence with your questions. At ZestED, our Care Coordinators specialize in men’s health, offering a one-on-one setting to discuss your concerns and offer you individualized advice for keeping yourself safe during the pandemic.
Don’t keep yourself in the dark about COVID-19 when specialized, discreet, one-on-one help is available! Visit our website, reach out to our men’s health specialists, and Get ZestED today.