The coronavirus pandemic and health from a gender equality perspective
The Swedish Gender Equality Agency presents its comments on what the coronavirus pandemic and the measures taken mean for gender equality, based on the knowledge we have at this time. Here you can read about health.
Both internationally and in Sweden, more men than women have died from Covid-19. As of 30 April, men accounted for 57% of the deaths in Sweden. Of the Covid-19 cases admitted to Swedish intensive care units, 74% were men. (Data from the Public Health Agency of Sweden.) Globally, the data is not entirely clear, but compiled statistics suggest that men run a significantly higher risk than women of dying after being diagnosed with Covid-19.
Unemployment, isolation and other effects of the pandemic risk leading to poor mental health. Within mental health, there are gender differences in all age groups.
It is uncertain why the disease appears to affect men more. It may be in the nature of the virus, but differences regarding chronic diseases might also provide some explanations. Around the world, men are overrepresented when it comes to coronary artery diseases and lung diseases, which are risk factors for becoming seriously ill with Covid-19. In addition, men are overrepresented in the area of alcohol consumption, which is associated with the development of these risk-heightening diseases.
According to a Sifo survey, men have also been less inclined to change their behaviour in response to the coronavirus crisis, compared to women. In 14 of the 19 factors tested in the survey, men changed their behaviour to a lesser extent than women, in areas such as following advice and recommendations about washing hands, using hand sanitiser and avoiding social gatherings.
– As well as the direct health impacts of the Covid-19 disease, it is important to monitor how the pandemic is affecting men’s and women’s health in society. Today, for example, we know that the majority of those who work in the healthcare sector, and who are therefore on the front line in fighting the pandemic, are women, says Ingrid Osika Friberg, senior analyst at the Swedish Gender Equality Agency.
The opportunity for social distancing to avoid becoming infected or infecting others can also look different for women and men. For example, women work to a greater extent in caring for older people and people with disabilities. Women are also more likely to look after relatives.
– Unemployment, isolation and other effects of the pandemic risk leading to poor mental health. Within mental health, there are gender differences in all age groups. The incidence of mental ill-health is higher among women than among men of working age or older. Mental ill-health is also more prevalent among young women than among men of the same age, with many affected by the closure of upper secondary schools and higher education institutions, adds Lars-Gunnar Engström, senior analyst at the Swedish Gender Equality Agency.
Publication date: 14 May 2020
Last updated: 17 November 2022