Fewer COVID-19 deaths under female leaders

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Countries with female leaders had better health outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to those run by men, a new study says.

Gender ratio, population density, urbanisation and political corruption all intensified the severity of pandemics around the world, research from the University of Queensland suggests.

But female leadership, education, religious diversity and public trust in government were found to reduce rates of infection and death.

Nations with a female head of state recorded about 40 per cent fewer COVID-19 deaths, according to the study.

"This figure can be attributed to female leaders taking quick and decisive action, a broader view of the wider impact on society and being more receptive to innovative thinking," Associate Professor Kelvin Tan said.

"We found female leaders tend to act promptly and decisively and are more risk-averse towards the loss of human life, which play an essential role in pandemic prevention and outcomes."

Although many countries adopted similar approaches to contain virus spread, Dr Tan said there were major differences in morbidity and mortality, even among those with similar socio economic and political conditions.

"As of December 31, 2020 although the population of Australia was only five times that of NZ, Australia had reported around 13 times more infections and 36 times the number of deaths than the numbers reported by New Zealand," he said.

The pandemic response of 91 countries between January and December 2020 was analysed in the study.

"We've identified a set of predetermined, country-specific characteristics that have significantly influenced the outcomes of the pandemic and we hope policymakers use them to manage risk during future health emergencies," Dr Tan said.

"Our findings highlight the importance of prevention, rather than treatment, in reducing COVID-19 morbidity and mortality."

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