COVID-19 and the gender health paradox

This article examines gender-based health inequalities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic by drawing on insights from research into the ‘gender health paradox’. Decades of international research shows that, across Europe, men have shorter life expectancies and higher mortality rates than women, and yet, women report higher morbidity. These gender-based health inequalities also appear to be evident within the pandemic and its aftermath. The article starts by providing an overview of the ‘gender health paradox’ and the biological, social, economic and political explanations for it. It then outlines the international estimates of gender-based inequalities in COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates – where emerging data suggests that women are more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 but that men have a higher mortality rate. It then explores the longer term consequences for gender-based health inequalities of the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on the impacts of government policy responses and the emerging economic crisis, suggesting that this might lead to increased mortality amongst men and increased morbidity amongst women. The essay concludes by reflecting on the pathways shaping gender-based health inequalities in the COVID-19 pandemic and the responses needed to ensure that it does not exacerbate gender-based health inequalities into the future.

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Communicable diseases, Groups that experience vulnerability: women, ethnic minorities, LGBTI+, migrants, disability

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