Do hormone therapies affect COVID-19?

May 7, 2020

COVID Symptom Study facilitating wider research to support NHS England

Researching the effects of hormonal therapies such as HRT or the Pill

LONDON, UK - The COVID Symptom Study today announces it will be working together with NHS England to facilitate key research into the potential protective effects of hormonal therapies, like HRT or the pill, and COVID-19. View our webinar on oestrogen and COVID-19 here.

More than 3 million people in the UK have provided data via the COVID Symptom Study app, launched by researchers at King’s College London and health technology company ZOE. This is the largest group of participants contributing to COVID-19 research in the world. Unlike contact tracing apps, The COVID Symptom Study app focuses on gathering health data to advance research into understanding the disease and providing short and long-term clinical solutions for the Nation’s recovery.

The COVID Symptom Study app has been updated to include specific questions about periods, hormone medications and menopause with the aim to better understand how hormones such as oestrogen might influence COVID-19 outcomes. The data will shed more light on the underlying reasons why there are sex-based differences in the response to coronavirus infection and the role of hormones in the disease as demonstrated in COVID Symptom Study data on hospitalisation.

Dr Louise Newson, advisor to NHS England, GP and menopause specialist commented:

“The COVID Symptom Study volunteers are an amazing resource that can answer a powerful question about the role of hormones in Covid-19 in a matter of days which can help the NHS save lives.”

Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London:

“We are really pleased to be working with NHS England and our millions of citizen scientists to help progress our understanding of COVID-19. It’s fantastic to see the COVID Symptom Study being used as a critical tool to enable NHS England to scale research projects at pace and ultimately help find a long term solution to this virus. Unlike the contact tracing app, the COVID Symptom Study is allowing users to be actively involved in the world’s largest science research project to help fight COVID. We welcome further opportunities to collaborate with the medical and scientific community to make even more progress in the fight against this deadly disease.”

Why are we conducting this research?

Many studies have shown that COVID-19 appears to affect men more than women. Here you can see data from our app showing that men report more need for respiratory support (RS), from oxygen to ventilation after visiting hospital.  This is true in the confirmed test positive group (T-COVID), as well as people who self-reported they had COVID (SR-COVID) but were not tested, and people we think had COVID based on symptoms they tracked (I-COVID).

Risk of needing respiratory support for COVID-19 by sex


We have also seen that in women the increased risk with age starts to become appreciable earlier than in men - this change appears to happen in the late 50s. We are currently taking a closer look to see whether this is related to the menopause.

The odds of being positive for COVID-19 by age and sex

Watch the full webinar

Additional information

Launched by researchers at King’s College London and developed by health technology company ZOE, the app-based COVID Symptom Study (formerly known as the COVID Symptom Tracker) is enabling millions of people across the UK to check in every day to log their health status, whether they are feeling well or experiencing any COVID-related symptoms. 

The COVID Symptom Study app is available to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store and has no overlap with the NHS tracker and does not use bluetooth. Daily research updates, UK-wide modelling data and trends over time can be found at covid.joinzoe.com.

Secure, anonymised data from the COVID Symptom Study is feeding into the NHS via BREATHE – the Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health and SAIL Databank at Swansea University, supported by Health Data Research UK. This can support the effective deployment of limited NHS resources such as healthcare personnel, testing kits or ventilators to where they are most likely to be needed.

For more information about the app or to request an interview with Professor Spector, please contact press@joinzoe.com. 

About King’s College London

King's College London is one of the top 10 UK universities in the world (QS World University Rankings, 2018/19) and among the oldest in England. King’s has more than 31,000 students (including more than 12,800 postgraduates) from some 150 countries worldwide, and some 8,500 staff.

King's has an outstanding reputation for world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), eighty-four per cent of research at King’s was deemed ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (3* and 4*).

Since our foundation, King’s students and staff have dedicated themselves in the service of society. King’s will continue to focus on world-leading education, research and service, and will have an increasingly proactive role to play in a more interconnected, complex world. Visit our website to find out more about Vision 2029, King’s strategic vision for the next 12 years to 2029, which will be the 200th anniversary of the founding of the university.  

World-changing ideas. Life-changing impact. kcl.ac.uk

About ZOE

ZOE is a healthcare science company using data-driven research to tackle the world’s health issues. By using machine learning combined with digital technologies like mobile phones, ZOE enables very large-scale scientific studies to tackle issues like COVID-19, inflammation and the impact of nutrition on health. Located in London and Boston, ZOE was founded by Professor Tim Spector of King’s College London, machine learning leader Jonathan Wolf and entrepreneur George Hadjigeorgiou. ZOE has carried out the largest nutritional studies of their kind in the world, and was named one of the Deloitte Fast 50 Rising Stars in 2019 for the company’s contribution to science enabled by technology and machine learning. 

For more information on ZOE’s mission and science visit www.joinzoe.com or follow @ZOE on Instagram

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