COVID-19 death rates are significantly higher among Black American women than among white men, according to a new study, suggesting that race is a factor in survival differences between men and women.
Researchers analyzed COVID death rates in Michigan and Georgia, the only states reporting data by age, race and sex.
“This analysis complicates the simple narrative that men are dying at greater rates of COVID-19 than women,” said lead author Tamara Rushovich, a doctoral candidate in population health sciences at Harvard University.
The analysis by Harvard’s GenderSci Lab found that COVID death rates among Black women are nearly four times higher than those for white men; three times higher than for Asian men; and also higher than for white and Asian women.
COVID death rates among Black men are far higher than for any other sex and racial group — including more than six times higher than for white men.
The difference in death rates between Black women and white women is more than triple that between white men and white women, the study found.
And the difference in death rates between Black men and Black women is larger than the disparity between white men and white women.
The findings were published April 5 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
While it’s well understood that racism and social inequities, not genetics, are responsible for racial disparities in COVID deaths, many researchers focus on differences in biology to explain gender differences in death rates, the authors noted.
They said theirs is the first study to quantify differences in COVID deaths by both race and sex.
The findings show that the common belief that men with COVID fare worse than women varies in magnitude across social groups defined by race/ethnicity. They also highlight that societal factors related to gender in combination with racism and economic status are important, the researchers said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about racial and ethnic disparities surrounding COVID-19.
SOURCE: Harvard University, news release, April 6, 2021
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