CDC survey finds that a quarter of young adults contemplated suicide during the pandemic

I previously wrote about how we may be on the verge of a mental health crisis due to recent events. In that post, I emphasized the fact that while recessions are generally associated with deteriorating mental health, the trend could be worse with the coronavirus-induced recession because there were more factors at play worsening people’s mental health, isolation for example.

Unsurprisingly, on August 13 Politico reported that

One in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 say they’ve considered suicide in the past month because of the pandemic, according to new CDC data that paints a bleak picture of the nation’s mental health during the crisis.

The data also flags a surge of anxiety and substance abuse, with more than 40 percent of those surveyed saying they experienced a mental or behavioral health condition connected to the Covid-19 emergency. The CDC study analyzed 5,412 survey respondents between June 24 and 30.

The toll is falling heaviest on young adults, caregivers, essential workers and minorities. While 10.7 percent of respondents overall reported considering suicide in the previous 30 days, 25.5 percent of those between 18 to 24 reported doing so. Almost 31 percent of self-reported unpaid caregivers and 22 percent of essential workers also said they harbored such thoughts. Hispanic and Black respondents similarly were well above the average.

This should be both unsurprising, but none less worrying. This pandemic, and the way that it has been handled left people with more than just job losses. It also brought people fear, uncertainty, and mandated isolation. But it should be especially concerning that young people, who were mostly immune from the health impacts of the virus itself, have been made to pay a heavy toll, which could have been avoided if instead efforts to contain the virus were concentrated on the most vulnerable. 

This should be a lesson for the future 

Generally, young adults have among some of the lowest mortality rates when it comes to Covid-19. Nevertheless, the huge focus on eradicating the virus at all costs resulted in shutting down the economy, closing down schools, and mandating social isolation. 

As a result, young adults in the workforce have been affected by job losses. Young adults, according to data from the CDC, have seen their mental health deteriorate during this period. 

Indeed, it might be a little too early to predict the full scale of COVID-19’s impact on mental health but studies suggest these effects should be long-lasting. This should be a lesson for both the present and the future, that policy decisions, either for curbing COVID-19 or any future crises need to be carefully weighed. As Thomas Sowell has famously taught us about policymaking, there are no perfect solutions, only trade-offs. Going forward, policymakers need to be cognizant of the tradeoffs that they are making with each policy that they enact in their efforts to curb the spread of the virus.