A study published by Well Being Trust on Friday claims that the economic shutdowns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic could cause a massive death toll of their own: approximately 75,000 "deaths of despair."
As reported by The Daily Caller, the study — titled the "Projected Deaths of Despair During the Coronavirus Recession" — claims the deaths, which include drug overdoses and suicides, will result from "unprecedented economic failure" in combination with "massive unemployment," months-long social isolation, "possible residual isolation for years," and the "uncertainty" stemming from a previously unknown microbe.
According to the study, a minimum of 27,644 people will die from these purported deaths of despair. In the worst-case scenario, the report claims that over 150,000 could die from such deaths. As noted by CBS News, the researchers believe that somewhere between these two numbers — around 75,000 — is the most likely scenario.
The study suggests that the most significant contributor to these deaths is the rising unemployment rate, which decreases the health of the American public and increases the risk of drug abuse and suicide.
Benjamin Miller, WBT's chief strategy officer, claims that the isolation of the coronavirus crisis is also breaking the boundaries of social norms — such as not drinking during the day — that could be hard for people to repair when the pandemic ends.
Miller warned of the "collateral damage" to public health that might stem from policymakers ignoring the downsides of a large-scale economic shutdown and failing to adequately focus on mental health.
"If we work to put in place healthy community conditions, good healthcare coverage, and inclusive policies, we can improve mental health and well-being."Dr. Elie Aoun, vice chairman of the American Psychiatric Association's Council on Addiction Psychiatry, claims that social isolation is most damaging for people who struggle with mental health and addiction issues, many of whom he says are relapsing. More concerning is that there was already an increase in deaths of despair in the U.S. before COVID-19 hit the country. As reported by NPR, the book, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, highlights the increased rates of opioid overdoses, suicides, and alcohol-related illnesses allegedly behind the surge of deaths of despair in white Americans between 45 and 54. In this demographic, life expectancy has been declining instead of increasing in recent years, a contrast to the pattern reportedly observed before the year 2000.
"This reversal has come almost entirely among white Americans without a four-year college degree, who make up 38 percent of the U.S. working-age population," the NPR report reads.
The increase in these deaths of despair comes as the opioid crisis continues to grip America.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For readers outside the U.S., visit Suicide.org or Befrienders Worldwide for international resources you can use to find help.