Women may be more likely to survive the deadly coronavirus, but they also appear to be more likely to have depression, anxiety and insomnia as they assume most of the burden of caring for patients, Chinese researchers have found.
The virus has caused less serious symptoms and lower mortality in women compared to men, according to two research papers by doctors working in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the disease. The papers have yet to be peer reviewed.
In one study of more than 1,000 patients across mainland China, including 37 who died in Wuhan, researchers found that men suffered more severe effects and were more likely to die, accounting for 70 per cent of the death toll, according to a study published on Thursday on medRxiv.org, a preprint server for health sciences.
In particular, the virus was “more likely to affect older males with comorbidities, and can result in severe and even fatal respiratory diseases”, the paper said.
The paper was written by researchers from Wuhan Union Hospital and Beijing Tongren Hospital, who were sent by the central government to Hubei province to help control the epidemic.
An earlier study of 47 patients with coronavirus-induced severe pneumonia found that male patients were more likely to have prior lung disease, develop secondary infections, require complex treatments and experience worse outcomes.
During one two-week period, men accounted for over 83 per cent of those whose condition deteriorated from severe to critical. At the same time, men represented just 20 per cent of those released from hospital, according to the study posted on the same website on February 27.
The study involved patients at one branch of Tongji Hospital in Wuhan and was conducted by doctors from Beijing Hospital and Xuanwu Hospital.
A similar gender difference was reported during the 2002-03 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) but not with influenza, the researchers said.
However, a third study suggests that this year’s coronavirus epidemic has taken a heavier toll on the mental health of women caring for patients.
The study, done by researchers from Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-sen University using online questionnaires via social media platform WeChat, suggested that nurses and others who were in contact with confirmed or suspected cases or working in the clinical front line were more likely to suffer psychologically.
The researchers surveyed nearly 5,400 doctors, nurses, clinical assistants and medical students in mainland areas outside Hubei, and found that women were more likely to report experiencing anxiety, depression or insomnia during the epidemic.
Women respondents were 2.4 per cent more likely to report anxiety, 6.7 per cent more likely to say they were depressed and 4.4 per cent more likely to say they had insomnia than men.
The survey was conducted last month and has been submitted to international medical journal The Lancet for peer review.
At the same time, most medical personnel sent by the central government to Hubei have been women, according to the National Health Commission (NHC).
Along with Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan, the only woman in the Communist Party’s 25-member Politburo, who is leading epidemic control efforts in Wuhan on behalf of the top leadership, more than 42,000 medical workers from across the country have been dispatched to the province so far.
The NHC said about 28,000 of them were women.
Earlier on Sunday, President Xi Jinping thanked these women for their dedication to treating the coronavirus patients, state news agency Xinhua reported.
He also thanked women working as police, and in disease control departments, the media, and residential communities, praising them for their important contribution to containing the virus.
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