Temporal trends of sex differences for COVID-19 infection, hospitalisation, severe disease, intensive care unit (ICU) admission and death: a meta-analysis of 229 studies covering over 10M patients

Bart G Pijls*, Shahab Jolani, Anique Atherley, Janna I R Dijkstra, Gregor H L Franssen, Stevie Hendriks, Evan Yi-Wen Yu, Saurabh Zalpuri, Anke Richters, Maurice P Zeegers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Background: This review aims to investigate the association of sex with the risk of multiple COVID-19 health outcomes, ranging from infection to death. Methods: Pubmed and Embase were searched through September 2020. We considered studies reporting sex and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outcomes. Qualitative and quantitative data were extracted using standardised electronic data extraction forms with the assessment of Newcastle Ottawa Scale for risk of bias. Pooled trends in infection, hospitalization, severity, intensive care unit (ICU) admission and death rate were calculated separately for men and women and subsequently random-effects meta-analyses on relative risks (RR) for sex was performed. Results: Of 10,160 titles, 229 studies comprising 10,417,452 patients were included in the analyses. Methodological quality of the included studies was high (6.9 out of 9). Men had a higher risk for infection with COVID-19 than women (RR = 1.14, 95%CI: 1.07 to 1.21). When infected, they also had a higher risk for hospitalization (RR = 1.33, 95%CI: 1.27 to 1.41), higher risk for severe COVID-19 (RR = 1.22, 95%CI: 1.17 to 1.27), higher need for Intensive Care (RR = 1.41, 95%CI: 1.28 to 1.55), and higher risk of death (RR = 1.35, 95%CI: 1.28 to 1.43). Within the period studied, the RR for infection and severity increased for men compared to women, while the RR for mortality decreased for men compared to women. Conclusions: Meta-analyses on 229 studies comprising over 10 million patients showed that men have a higher risk for COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, disease severity, ICU admission and death. The relative risks of infection, disease severity and death for men versus women showed temporal trends with lower relative risks for infection and severity of disease and higher relative risk for death at the beginning of the pandemic compared to the end of our inclusion period. PROSPERO registration: CRD42020180085 (20/04/2020).

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2022


  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sex Characteristics

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