As COVID deaths rise, being female can save your life

man and woman on bus both wearing masks

As Australia’s death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise, it appears there is one simple factor to increasing your chances of surviving a severe case.

Australia is in danger of becoming complacent as the death toll rapidly escalates. While we were horrified by the 909 deaths in 2020 and the 2226 in 2021, we have already recorded 5269 deaths for this year as of 18 May.

COVID is now the second most likely cause of death behind cancer for Australians, according to provisional data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released in April.

The ABS also stated that chronic cardiac problems were the most common pre-existing conditions for those who had COVID-19 certified as the underlying cause of death.

Epidemiologist Mike Toole told The Sydney Morning Herald he was astonished the increase in deaths wasn’t being addressed during the federal election campaign.

Read: Four strange COVID symptoms you may not have heard about

“We were told earlier in the year don’t look at the case numbers, look at hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths,” Mr Toole said.

“I’ve been looking at them, and they’re going up.

“I learnt that a Boeing 737-800, which is the most common domestic plane used in Australia, carries 184 passengers and crew.

“So, we’re reporting more than a 737 crashing every week.”

While deaths are increasing in Australia and as the US hits one million COVID deaths, it appears being female may improve your chances of surviving.

A study out of the Middle East has found oestrogen treatments within six months before a COVID infection can reduce mortality by up to 22 per cent.

The study found oestrogens have “noteworthy” anti-inflammatory effects on COVID.

Read: How to handle post-COVID fatigue

The authors found that while age was a risk factor for both sexes for the severe form of the disease, there was ‘women protection’ for COVID, that is, fewer women were dying than men.

The study quotes figures from Italy, where males aged 60 to 89 were responsible for 63.9 per cent of total cases.

“It has been expected that sex hormones are the main determinant factors in gender differences,” the study stated.

“Findings illustrated that women have a powerful immunomodulating (i.e. affecting the body’s immune system) effect against COVID-19 through the effect of oestrogen.”

The study found men were more vulnerable and prone to SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID – infection by a factor of 2.4 times higher.

Read: Severe COVID is equivalent to 20 years of ageing, study finds

“Previous coronavirus diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003 and the Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2012 showed the same pattern in gender susceptibility,” the study stated.

“Both hormone replacement therapy after menopause and contraceptive pills produce a potent immune response and protection against viral infections.”

The study claimed the results may also be a result of the fact that women generally have a higher T-cell count. T-cells are a vital part of the immune system.

It recommended clinical trials and large-scale studies to confirm the importance of oestrogen therapy to manage COVID in postmenopausal women.

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Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.

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