What if the isolation of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders and voluntary quarantining is causing more harm than the coronavirus itself?
More Britons have considered suicide because of the pandemic and the lockdowns than those who have been infected with coronavirus, numbers from multiple studies suggest. To be more precise, the increase in suicidal thoughts over the course of the pandemic, when compared to past years, is greater than the infection rate in the United Kingdom. There’s no reason to think the United States is different.
Before exploring causes and solutions, let’s look at the numbers.
The new nine-month study of the U.K. shows the magnitude and the trend of mental health problems throughout the pandemic. Look at the growth in suicidal thoughts over the course of the pandemic.
That’s a net 5 million more people having suicidal thoughts as the second surge in the virus hit in late fall. Some of that is surely seasonal (it gets dark early in London this time of year), but even that 8% in April was way higher than normal. A study published at Cambridge University Press suggests that normally about 2.8% of people in the U.K. have had suicidal thoughts in the past week, pointing to a 2010 study that also found 5.5% had such thoughts in the past year.
None of these numbers can cleanly compare, but it sure seems like the number of British people having suicidal thoughts has at least doubled compared to normal times. If we attribute about half of the 13% to current circumstances, that’s 6.5% of Britain’s population — or about 4.3 million Britons. Compare that to 1.95 million Britons who have contracted the coronavirus. In short, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have given more people depression to the point of suicidal thoughts than it has given people the coronavirus.
If this rough analysis is right, it raises questions. What is causing these suicidal thoughts? It seems unlikely that it’s mostly the fear of getting sick. Obviously, worrying about your groceries being clean or invisible deadly particles does add to anxiety and subtract from mental well-being, but far more stressful is the loss of work or risk of losing work. People also lost some forms of entertainment and recreation, such as gyms, sports leagues, and movie theaters.
Add to that the students who lost school, got cooped up in small apartments, and had to be surrounded by stressed-out parents all day.
Most importantly, I believe, people lost regular access to friends, colleagues, neighbors, and classmates. Life is hard in any circumstance, and companionship and belonging are what make it bearable. Take away the things we belong to, and life can seem unbearable.
I’m not making a case against lockdowns. I’m not even saying government lockdown policies caused all of these maladies — many people would be staying home amid this plague no matter what was open. I’m saying that when we consider the health effects of policies, and how we present news about the danger of the virus, we should consider the mental health effects, too.
Author : Timothy P. Carney
Source : Washington Examiner : The loneliness pandemic: More affected mentally by the crisis than infected by the coronavirus