April 20, 2020

Stress: Unintended Consequence of the Lockdown

Increased stress levels due to the pandemic shutdown have increased domestic violence.

In an effort to save lives and blunt the spread of the novel China Virus, governments across the world issued various lockdown orders forcing people to remain in their homes. While the goal to save lives and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with those sickened by the virus has become our government’s primary focus, the unintended consequences of such actions are now beginning to present themselves.

First and foremost is the obvious problem of lost jobs due to the economic slowdown. As the shutdowns and quarantines drag on, more and more people suffer lost wages and lost employment, and they’re essentially left powerless to do anything about it. This kind of situation only serves to ratchet up people’s stress levels, and that increased stress may reveal itself in dangerous ways.

One sad example exposing this rise in stress has been a significant uptick in domestic violence. U.S. police departments have reported a 35% increase in domestic-violence cases since the lockdowns started. This has everything to do with stress over the virus itself, stress over lost employment, and stress over mounting debt. Combine all this with the lack of the usual socializing outlets and people can start to lose it.

“The pandemic is upending everyone’s lives. But it has been particularly destabilizing for the millions of people who deal with depression and anxiety,” The Wall Street Journal observes. “The stress of job losses and the shredding of routines and support systems can exacerbate symptoms and make relapse more likely, says Charles B. Nemeroff, chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says calls and e-mails have increased 40% in the past two weeks. … The Crisis Text Line has seen demand in the U.S. rise by 40% since March 16.”

Thomas W. Smith of Prescott Investors, like many Americans, wonders if the massive economic shutdown was a step too far. “We did not close the world economy in 1957 when the world endured the Asian Flu pandemic, which caused 1.1 million worldwide deaths, 160,000 in the United States,” he observes. “The current estimate of COVID-19 deaths in the United States is around 60,000. The population of the United States in 1957 was 177 million. Today, it is 320 million. Who even remembers the Asian Flu? That will not be the case with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As the lockdown continues, we can expect to see more of these unintended consequences come to light.

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