Unemployment kills too

A lot of states are reopening. However, with that, there is a worry that cases will increase leading to more deaths. To some people, reopening. means choosing the economy over people’s lives. According to them, we should keep the economy locked down until the pandemic is over.

But does reopening really mean we are putting people over the economy? Not necessarily.

Lockdowns have their own costs

For one, lockdowns come with their own consequences. Among some, these include increased deaths from other sources. One good example is deaths of despair, which are usually preceded by an economic downturn.

Economic recessions have a considerable impact on people`s health. Recessions and unemployment are damaging to mental health, they lead to an increase in drug use as well as alcohol use, and contribute to an increase in suicides.

The COVID-19 and lockdown-induced recession have caused tremendous job losses. As a nation, we are at risk of potentially experiencing trends similar to those of the Great Recession and other past economic downturns. According to research by the Well Being trust, as many as 75,000 Americans are at risk of dying from overdose or suicide due to the coronavirus despair.

 Deaths of despair are defined as deaths to drug, alcohol, and suicide, and often associated with socioeconomic factors. Unemployment during the Great Recession (December 2007–June 2009) was associated with an increase in suicide deaths and drug overdose deaths.

There are certain factors at play here that do tend to affect people`s mental health, like job loss. But things like isolation, and uncertainty, which have been the common themes of the pandemic, will likely compound on people’s trigger factors.

According to the latest report from the Bureau of labor statistics that came up on May 8, we have seen more than an estimated 20 million people lose their jobs in the past three months. These numbers are already historically high, and extending locks downs extends the risk of higher permanent unemployment numbers as well as economic damage.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Not to mention that most of these job losses are concentrated in low-wage sectors, among low-income people. So, People who are already facing economic hardship have been the hardest hit. Extending the lockdown extends the recovery time for people in these most vulnerable sectors, which could be even more psychologically damaging.

The Leisure and hospitality industry, for instance, has an average hourly wage of $18 per hour which is the lowest compared to all other sectors. The retail industry comes second with an average per hour wage of $21.20. All the other sectors have average hourly wages well over $25.00 and have lost fewer jobs in comparison.

Source Bureau of Labor Statistics

It is not a choice between saving the economy or saving people’s lives

While it may seem like the choice is between either saving the economy or saving people’s lives, that is not the case. Closing the economy altogether in order to save lives is also throwing people’s lives away.

By extending the lockdown, states are denying People their livelihoods, social ties as well a sense of security, possibly leading to increased deaths of despair. There is definitely a choice that has to be made, but that choice is not between rising unemployment or deaths.  Unemployment also kills.