COVID-19 presents with mild symptoms in the majority of patients but in a minority it progresses to acute illness and hospitalization. Here we consider whether markers for prenatal sex hormones and postnatal stressors on developmental instability, i.e. digit ratios and their directional and unsigned asymmetries, are predictive of hospitalization. We focus on six ratios: 2D:3D; 2D:4D; 2D:5D; 3D:4D; 3D:5D; 4D:5D and compare hospitalized patient and control means for right, and left ratios, directional asymmetries (right–left) and unsigned asymmetries [|(right–left)|]. There were 54 patients and 100 controls. We found (i) patients differed in their digit ratios from controls (patients > controls) in all three ratios that included 5D (2D:5D, 3D:5D and 4D:5D) with small to medium effect sizes (d = 0.3 to 0.64), (ii) they did not differ in their directional asymmetries, and (iii) patients had greater |(right–left)| asymmetry than controls for 2D:4D (d = .74) , and all ratios that included 5D; 2D:5D (d = 0.66), 3D:5D (d = .79), 4D:5D (d = 0.47).
The Composite Asymmetry of the two largest effects (2D:4D + 3D:5D) gave a patient and control difference with effect size d = 1.04. All patient versus control differences were independent of sex. We conclude that digit ratio patterns differ between patients and controls and this was most evident in ratios that included 5D. Large |(right–left)| asymmetries in the patients are likely to be a marker for postnatal stressors resulting in developmental perturbations and for potential severity of COVID-19