Impact of COVID-19 on the health of Australia's males

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COVID-19 is a disease caused by the virus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It is a major health threat resulting in both direct and indirect effects on health of Australia’s males.

For more information on AIHW COVID-19 reporting see COVID-19 and Changes in the health of Australians during the COVID-19 period.

How has COVID-19 affected Australia’s males directly?

From 15 December 2021 to 18 December 2022, the rate of COVID-19 cases in males was 34,836 per 100,000 population. The highest rate was seen in the 18–29-year age group (CDI 2023).

About 7, 400 males have died from COVID-19 in Australia by March 2023, which accounted for 55% of all COVID-19 deaths. The highest rates of deaths were seen in males aged 90 and over (ABS 2023a). The most common associated causes of death were pneumonia and respiratory failure.

In 2022, COVID-19 is the seventh leading cause of disease burden in males, responsible for 3.0% of total ill health and premature death in Australia. In comparison, COVID-19 ranked twelfth among specific diseases in females and was responsible for 2.5% of total disease burden. In males, the burden from COVID-19 was predominantly due to premature death, accounting for 78% of total COVID-19 disease burden. The total disease burden due to COVID-19 was the highest in males aged 75–79 (14.4%) and 80–84 and over (13.3%) (AIHW 2022d).

What are some of the indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on males?

COVID-19 and mental health from 2020 to 2021

For some Australians, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated implications appear to have had a negative effect on mental health (AIHW 2021f).

Negative effects can result from concerns about the virus itself, and the impact of the measures used to contain the spread of the virus (NMHC 2020).

Data from the Ten to Men study in Australia showed rates of mental health service use during the pandemic between March 2020 and February 2021 among males were similar to pre-COVID levels (January 2018 to February 2020 for the study). However, the way in which services were delivered changed, with 18% of services during COVID-19 provided through expanded telehealth measures, suggesting substantial uptake of these services (Wong, et al. 2022). While the levels of mental health service use did not change for men during the COVID period between January 2020 to January 2021, MBS data showed that there was an uptake in mental health care during this first year of COVID-19 by men who had never or had not been in contact with such services for a long time (Wong, et al. 2022).

A survey of mental health and wellbeing during the first 2 years of COVID–19 in Australia found that males were less adversely impacted than females, with lower levels of psychological distress (Biddle, et al. 2022).

For detailed information see Changes in the health of Australians during the COVID–19 period and Mental health impact of COVID-19.

Delayed and foregone health care during 2020–21

Due to lockdowns and isolation requirements during 2020 and 2021, there was concern people may not receive the care they required if they were unable to access a General Practitioner (GP) which provide primary care in Australia.

Males aged 15 and over delayed health care when needed it in the previous 12 months due to COVID-19 (ABS 2022n):

  • 9.4% delayed seeing a dental professional
  • 6.8% delayed seeing a GP
  • 5.4% delayed after-hours GPs
  • 6.0% delayed seeing medical specialists.

There was a large increase in male visits to GPs in 2021, well above the expected rate based on projections from data for the period to 2019. This increase was likely driven by the large role GP’s played in the vaccine rollout (AIHW 2022c).