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Developmental Biology - COVID-19

Women Less Likely to Expose Themselves to COVID

Women's attitudes and behaviors may contribute to their reduced mortality under COVID-19...

A survey in 8 countries shows women consider the Covid-19 virus to be a much more serious problem than men. Thus, their opinion may lead them to be more likely to comply with healthcare policies. Their increased adherence may be one reason women had lower Covid mortality than men, in the early phase of this epidemic.
Policy makers who promote a new normality with reduced mobility, wearing face masks and other behavioral changes, should, therefore, design gender differentiated communication if they want to increase male compliance.

Vincenzo Galasso PhD, Department of Social and Political Sciences, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy; Centre for Economic Policy Research, London, UK; Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research, Milan, Italy; Dondena Center, Milan, Italy.

Two of the authors of the research published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) are Vincenzo Galasso and Paola Profeta, COVID Crisis Lab, Bocconi University.

They observed substantial gender differences in attitude and behavior as recorded in two surveys (March, April 2020), with 21,649 respondents from Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, the UK and USA. This international project was conducted by REPEAT (REpresentations, PErceptions and ATtitudes on the COVID-19).
• Women around the world are more inclined than men to consider COVID-19 a very serious health problem (59% against 48.7% in March; 39.6% against 33% in April).

• Women are more inclined to agree with public policies fighting the pandemic: mobility restrictions and social distancing (54.1 against 47.7 (March) and 42.6 against 37.4 (April).

• Women are also more clearly inclined to follow the rules concerning COVID-19 (88.1% against 83.2% in March and 77.6% against 71.8% in April).

The share of individuals complying with the rules drops over time, particularly in Germany, from 85.8% of women and 81.5% of men in March to 70.5% of women and 63.7% of men in April, but the large gender gap persists.
"The biggest difference between men and women relates to behavior that protects others, like coughing in one's elbow, unlike behaviors that protect only one's self."

Paola Profeta PhD, Professor, Economics, Pompeu Fabra University of Barcelona (2000); Visiting Scholar, Columbia University, New York, 1998 and 1999.

Gender differences persisted even after the study controlled a large number of sociodemographic characteristics and psychological factors. However, differences between married couples living together sharing views with each other, and individuals directly exposed to the pandemic, were smaller.

Public health response to COVID-19 requires behavior changes—isolation at home, wearing masks. Its effectiveness depends on generalized compliance. Original data from two waves of a survey conducted in March-April 2020 in eight Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries (n = 21,649) show large gender differences in COVID-19-related beliefs and behaviors. Women are more likely to perceive the pandemic as a very serious health problem and to agree and comply with restraining measures. These differences are only partially mitigated for individuals cohabiting or directly exposed to COVID-19. This behavioral factor contributes to substantial gender differences in mortality and is consistent with women-led countries responding more effectively to the pandemic. It calls for gender-based public health policies and communication.

The initial public health response to the breakout of COVID-19 required fundamental changes in individual behavior, such as isolation at home or wearing masks. The effectiveness of these policies hinges on generalized public obedience. Yet, people’s level of compliance may depend on their beliefs regarding the pandemic. We use original data from two waves of a survey conducted in March and April 2020 in eight Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries (n = 21,649) to study gender differences in COVID-19-related beliefs and behaviors. We show that women are more likely to perceive COVID-19 as a very serious health problem, to agree with restraining public policy measures, and to comply with them. Gender differences in attitudes and behavior are sizable in all countries. They are accounted for neither by sociodemographic and employment characteristics nor by psychological and behavioral factors. They are only partially mitigated for individuals who cohabit or have direct exposure to the virus. We show that our results are not due to differential social desirability bias. This evidence has important implications for public health policies and communication on COVID-19, which may need to be gender based, and it unveils a domain of gender differences: behavioral changes in response to a new risk.

Vincenzo Galasso, Vincent Pons, Paola Profeta, Michael Becher, Sylvain Brouard and Martial Foucault

The authors declare no competing interest. This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

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Oct 23 2020   Fetal Timeline   Maternal Timeline   News

Women consider the Corona virus to be a much more serious problem than men. CREDIT AFP Health.

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