Sex differences in susceptibility, severity, and outcomes of coronavirus disease 2019: Cross-sectional analysis from a diverse US metropolitan area. Academic Article uri icon


  • INTRODUCTION: Sex is increasingly recognized as an important factor in the epidemiology and outcome of many diseases. This also appears to hold for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Evidence from China and Europe has suggested that mortality from COVID-19 infection is higher in men than women, but evidence from US populations is lacking. Utilizing data from a large healthcare provider, we determined if males, as compared to females have a higher likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 susceptibility, and if among the hospitalized COVID-19 patients, male sex is independently associated with COVID-19 severity and poor in-hospital outcomes. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Using the Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) guidelines, we conducted a cross-sectional analysis of data from a COVID-19 Surveillance and Outcomes Registry (CURATOR). Data were extracted from Electronic Medical Records (EMR). A total of 96,473 individuals tested for SARS-CoV-2 RNA in nasopharyngeal swab specimens via Polymerized Chain Reaction (PCR) tests were included. For hospital-based analyses, all patients admitted during the same time-period were included. Of the 96,473 patients tested, 14,992 (15.6%) tested positive, of whom 4,785 (31.9%) were hospitalized and 452 (9.5%) died. Among all patients tested, men were significantly older. The overall SARS-CoV-2 positivity among all tested individuals was 15.5%, and was higher in males as compared to females 17.0% vs. 14.6% [OR 1.20]. This sex difference held after adjusting for age, race, ethnicity, marital status, insurance type, median income, BMI, smoking and 17 comorbidities included in Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI) [aOR 1.39]. A higher proportion of males (vs. females) experienced pulmonary (ARDS, hypoxic respiratory failure) and extra-pulmonary (acute renal injury) complications during their hospital course. After adjustment, length of stay (LOS), need for mechanical ventilation, and in-hospital mortality were significantly higher in males as compared to females. CONCLUSIONS: In this analysis of a large US cohort, males were more likely to test positive for COVID-19. In hospitalized patients, males were more likely to have complications, require ICU admission and mechanical ventilation, and had higher mortality than females, independent of age. Sex disparities in COVID-19 vulnerability are present, and emphasize the importance of examining sex-disaggregated data to improve our understanding of the biological processes involved to potentially tailor treatment and risk stratify patients.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

altmetric score

  • 158.6

author list (cited authors)

  • Vahidy, F. S., Pan, A. P., Ahnstedt, H., Munshi, Y., Choi, H. A., Tiruneh, Y., ... McCullough, L. D.

citation count

  • 76

complete list of authors

  • Vahidy, Farhaan S||Pan, Alan P||Ahnstedt, Hilda||Munshi, Yashasvee||Choi, Huimahn A||Tiruneh, Yordanos||Nasir, Khurram||Kash, Bita A||Andrieni, Julia D||McCullough, Louise D

publication date

  • January 2021