What We Know About Oestrogen's 'Protective Effect' Against Covid-19

Natasha Hinde
·2-min read

Every Monday, we’ll answer your questions on Covid-19 and health in a feature published online. You can submit a question here.

This week, HuffPost UK reader Gill asked: “I heard that research has shown that reduced oestrogen makes you more vulnerable to bad Covid. Is this true?”

Early on in the pandemic, it became obvious that men – as well as older women – were more susceptible to negative outcomes from Covid-19. Men, especially, are more likely to be hospitalised by the virus and end up in intensive care. They are also twice more likely to die from the virus as women.

It led researchers to hypothesise that the female sex hormone oestrogen might have some kind of protective effect. The hormone – which is considered to be immunity-enhancing and can help the female body fight off viruses better – also decreases as a person ages, which could explain why older women are more susceptible to the virus than younger women.

Dr Louise Newson, a GP and menopause specialist, said during a webinar on the topic that women have “a stronger response to infections, but especially to viruses, compared to men” – and this is because women have different immune systems. She added that “frustratingly, so much research on immunity and in general is done in men and not in women”.


Earlier in the year, researchers from the Covid Symptom Study app set out to determine whether women entering menopause were more likely to test positive for Covid-19.

An analysis of data from 500,000 female members of the app suggested post-menopausal women aged 40-60 years old had a higher rate of *predicted* Covid. But the findings haven’t been peer-reviewed, and it’s important to note this was based on people having symptoms of Covid that were input into the...

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