Countries led by women reported fewer COVID-19 deaths in 2020

Countries led by women reported fewer COVID-19 deaths in 2020 than those led by men

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Countries with female leaders reported 40 per cent fewer COVID-19 deaths in 2020, than countries governed by men, according to a new study from the University of Queensland.

The findings come as part of a larger study that looked at the impacts that characteristics such as leadership had on a nation’s COVID-19 infection and death rates.

The study revealed that alongside female leadership, the strength of legal systems, and public trust in government, significantly reduced infection rates and deaths.

These latest UQ findings are consistent with a previous study of 34 developed countries, which found female leaders resulted in better COVID-19 control outcomes. 

According to the UN, 26 women currently serve as Heads of State and/or Government in 24 countries.

Prominent leaders who made headlines for their swift actions during the pandemic include Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Katrín Jakobsdóttir of Iceland and Mette Frederiksen of Denmark.

Associate Professor Kelvin Tan from UQ’s Business School, attributes the lower number of covid deaths in countries with female leadership to these leaders “… taking quick and decisive action, a broader view of the wider impact on society and being more receptive to innovative thinking.”

“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,” Dr Tan said.

The study reviewed the pandemic response of 91 countries between January and December 2020, determining certain country characteristics had shaped COVID-19 outcomes.

Despite some countries adopting similar approaches to control the spread of COVID-19, there remained drastic differences in morbidity and mortality even among those with similar socio-economic conditions and political backgrounds like Australia and New Zealand.

Tan’s research, published in Nature Portfolio’s Scientific Reports, found that despite Australia’s population being only roughly five times that of New Zealand (24.5 million vs 4.8 million) it had reported around 13 times more infections and 36 times the number of deaths compared to New Zealand.

Urbanisation, gender ratio, population density and political corruption also intensified the severity of a country’s pandemic experience.

A country’s level of education and religious diversity was also found to reduce overall deaths and covid cases.

“Our findings highlight the importance of prevention, rather than treatment, in reducing COVID-19 morbidity and mortality,” Dr Tan said.

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