More men than women died in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic hitting men harder than women, official figures reveal. 

It is the first time male deaths have outnumbered female deaths in a calendar year since 1981.

Men have consistently been found to be more at risk of dying from Covid than women, but the exact reason for this remains unknown. 

Before 1981, male deaths always far outnumbered female deaths but 40 years ago, this switched. 

In recent times, more women have died every year as a result of two factors — there are more women than men, and women live longer. 

Before the pandemic, the average life expectancy of a man was 79, while it was 83 for a woman. Figures also show there are 67,081,234 people in the UK, and 33,935,525 (50.6 per cent) are women. 

As a result, women normally account for a greater proportion of the raw death toll but the Covid pandemic saw 8,216 more men die than women last year. 

Raw figures, released on Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics, revealed 308,069 men died in England and Wales in 2020, compared to 299,853 women.

The 607,922 total deaths – which only includes England and Wales, as Northern Ireland and Scotland record their deaths separately – in 2020 is 14.5 per cent higher than the comparable 2019 figure, indicating the devastating toll of the pandemic.

Map of UK’s seven-day Covid-19 infection rate, by local authority

Overall, Covid was the leading cause of death in 2020, accounting for 12.1 per cent of all deaths, the ONS said, totalling 73,766 deaths. Of these, 40,995 were males (55.6 per cent).

However, it was not the single biggest killer in women, with Alzheimer’s and dementia claiming the most lives and accounting for 15.3 per cent of female fatalities. 

Covid accounted for 13.3 per cent of all male deaths, but just 10.9 per cent of deaths in women. 

“Deaths due to Covid-19 in 2020 were highest in the North West region of England at 176.0 deaths per 100,000 people (12,428 deaths); this was significantly higher than any other region,” the ONS said.

“This was followed by London at 167.3 deaths per 100,000 (10,070 deaths) and the North East of England at 166.8 deaths per 100,000 (4,467 deaths).”

For the entirety of the UK, 689,629 people died in 2020. This was the deadliest year since the Spanish flu ravaged the nation at the end of World War One in 1918. 

The ONS also confirmed that 2020 was the first year since 1976 that births outnumbered deaths in the UK.