The Demography of The Disease

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March 23, 2020 10:09 a.m.

We are getting more information about the demography of COVID-19. I have not yet seen detailed age and gender breakdowns nationwide. But the chair of the New York City Council’s health committee just tweeted out a breakdown of the fatality numbers so far out of New York City. The total numbers remain small in statistical terms though heartbreaking in the metric of individual people’s lives, with 99 people succumbing to the disease in the city.

The age breakdowns are broadly what we’ve been led to expect.

The one thing that jumped out at me is that as of Saturday twice as many men had died as women. 32% female and 68% male, according to Council member Mark Levine. These are broadly in line with what happened in China and Italy. But in China smoking was viewed as a possible key driver. 52% of Chinese men smoke while only 2-3% of Chinese women do.

But there’s comparatively little gender disparity in smoking in the US, though male smokers appear to smoke more intensively than female smokers. So this data (still quite limited) suggests that smoking is not the major driver of this disparity. Health researchers point to a number of reasons why women tend to mount stronger immune responses in general. So emerging evidence suggests this gender disparity is more biological than behavioral, though we can’t rule out a role for smoking as well.

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