Women have better immune systems

Corona is affecting Germany
Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / geralt

Studies show that men are significantly more likely to suffer severe cases of Corona and other infectious diseases and die from these diseases more often than women. According to researchers, the cause is probably the X chromosome.

Even though roughly the same number of men and women have been infected with Corona, the numbers of seriously ill and dead people show clear differences. According to a 2020 study, the risk of dying from Covid-19 is about 31 to 47 percent higher for men than for women. According to the Pharmazeutische Zeitung, around two thirds of all Corona deaths in Germany were male. The tagesschau reported in August 2023 that three quarters of all Covid intensive care patients are male.

According to the Pharmazeutische Zeitung, it has long been known that men tend to become more seriously ill and die more often from other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis B. Research has established the assumption that women have a stronger and more active immune system until menopause.

Note: So far there have been mostly surveys and analyzes in science that talk about men and women. It is often unclear what a research team or institute actually understands by “man” and “woman”. Researchers in an article from 2023 clarify in more detail that they refer to biological sex, which includes the distribution of chromosomes, sex hormones and primary and secondary sexual characteristics. Social gender is different from biological gender and does not necessarily have to correspond to it. Both constructs are understood as a continuum and not as binary categories. In the following article, the terms “man” and “woman” will therefore continue to be used as biological gender.

Differences in the immune system: chromosomes and sex hormones

In people who have two X chromosomes, the possible number of different defense mechanisms increases.
In people who have two X chromosomes, the possible number of different defense mechanisms increases.
(Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / Furiosa-L)

According to various studies, the fact that women have a stronger immune system is probably primarily related to the chromosome combination. The majority of the genes that influence the immune system are located exclusively on the X chromosome, according to the Pharmazeutische Zeitung. People who are defined as women in research have two of these chromosomes. For a long time it was assumed that the second X chromosome was completely inactive and therefore had no effect on immune reactions.

This thesis is now considered refuted. It is now clear that the genes of the second X chromosome can also play a role in immune responses. This means that people with two X chromosomes in their bodies have a higher number of different defense mechanisms available.

Sex hormones also have a strong influence on our immune system. According to Quarks, estrogen can drive immune responses. Testosterone, on the other hand, tends to inhibit the work of the immune system and suppress immune reactions. According to researchers, it should be noted that the hormonal balance changes during the menstrual cycle. However, it is still unclear how these changes affect the immune system. After menopause, however, there is a decrease in the function of the immune system due to the hormonal changes.

According to Quarks, the fact that Corona causes severe cases, especially in men, is probably due to the ACE2 receptor. This occurs in different organs, including the lungs and the heart. The corona virus docks onto this receptor and thus enters the interior of a cell. ACE2 is less pronounced in children and women than in men, says Quarks. The receptor is less common in the cells of the lungs in women. Estrogen also inhibits the spread of the receptor. This could explain why, according to statistics, Covid-19 particularly affects men so badly.

Strong immune system and autoimmune diseases

An active immune system not only has benefits, but can promote inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
An active immune system not only has benefits, but can promote inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
(Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / qimono)

However, an active immune system does not only have advantages for women. According to the Pharmazeutische Zeitung, it also means that women are more often affected by autoimmune diseases. These diseases involve misdirected control of the immune system. This causes the body to attack its own cells and organs. Typical autoimmune diseases include, for example, chronic intestinal inflammation (such as Crohn’s disease), type 1 diabetes or multiple sclerosis.

Furthermore, the strong immune system means that women more often suffer from strong vaccination reactions and undesirable side effects, according to the Pharmazeutische Zeitung. The advantage is that even smaller doses would often be enough to ensure comprehensive protection. In addition, the immunity lasts longer.

What role does our behavior play?

According to the Pharmazeutische Zeitung, the fact that men suffer more severely from certain diseases could also be due to their behavior. Men tend to drink more alcohol, smoke and eat unhealthy foods. Quarks also confirms that significantly more men worldwide smoke and are therefore more seriously ill with Corona. Around 35 percent of all men worldwide smoke. For women the number is only around six percent.

The Pharmazeutische Zeitung cites the sex hormone testosterone as the cause of the unhealthier behavior. This occurs in higher concentrations in the blood of men and makes them more willing to take risks. However, according to current research, the connection between testosterone and willingness to take risks is nothing more than a myth, according to the magazine “Bild der Wissenschaft”. Researcher Amanda Hughes tells the magazine that the effects of testosterone are generally overstated and have not been borne out in new research.

A 2009 study suggests that different behaviors and lifestyles between female and male people are more likely to be acquired than innate. Education and socialization therefore play an important role in the different behavior between the sexes. In this sense, toxic masculinity not only leads to the perpetuation of gender injustice, but can ultimately also promote serious illnesses in people who are read as male.

Read more on Techzle\.com:

  • Gender Data Gap: Why our world is not made for women
  • Toxic Femininity: This is what the behavior pattern means
  • Family time: relaxed through the cold season

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