Women are more likely than men to consider COVID-19 a serious problem and to agree and comply with restrictions like staying home and wearing masks, according to a survey in March/April of more than 21,000 people in eight wealthy countries.
While there is no gender difference in rates of infection, men are more vulnerable to becoming critical ill, with roughly twice the odds of dying.
The new study, reported on Thursday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that along with genetic and immunological factors, behavioral differences also shape COVID-19 disparities between men and women.
The authors say public health messages may need to be customized by gender. "Countries headed by women, such as Germany and New Zealand, have generally responded more effectively to the pandemic," the authors wrote.
"In contrast, some of the countries with the worst record, including the United States and Brazil, are led by men who have projected strong masculinity attitudes and dismissed the need for precautionary practices such as wearing masks."