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More women than men died in Canada during the first months of the COVID pandemic, StatCan finds

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A new report from Statistics Canada has found that more women died of COVID-19 than men did during the earliest months of the pandemic.

The article, published Wednesday in StatCan's peer-reviewed journal Health Reports, also says that this largely affected non-immigrants aged 85 and older – a "phenomenon" that is "likely related to the high concentration of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care homes, where a lower institutionalization rate by immigrants had been observed."

The report provides a possible explanation for why Canada appeared to diverge from global trends early in the pandemic, when more men died from COVID-19 worldwide.

The latest figures from the Public Health Agency of Canada show that more than 55,000 people have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, largely from 2020 to 2022, although some of the reporting by provinces and territories has since changed.

As the StatCan report notes, more than 80 per cent of the earliest COVID-19 deaths in Canada occurred in long-term care homes, much higher than the 38 per cent average among other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Those 85 and older made up more than half of COVID-19 deaths and two out of three long-term care residents are women.

The report states that COVID-19 risk factors, including diabetes, cancer and smoking, are higher among Canadian men. The COVID-19 death rate among immigrant workers in Canada also was higher among men in health care and social assistance, despite more women working in that field.

Canada, however, had proportionately more female COVID-19 deaths, particularly from May 2020 until early 2021.

These sex differences "disappeared" by summer 2021, which the report says could be due to high vaccination rates in long-term care homes. The report says this reduced infections and serious outcomes, including death, from COVID-19 by more than 90 per cent. 

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