November 18, 2020 Reading Time: 6 minutes

In the debate over coronavirus policy, there has been far too little focus on the costs of lockdowns. It’s very common for the proponents of these interventions to write articles and large studies without even mentioning the downsides. 

Here is a brief look at the cost of stringencies in the United States, and around the world, including stay-at-home orders, closings of business and schools, restrictions on gatherings, shutting of arts and sports, restrictions on medical services, and interventions in the freedom of movement. 

Mental Health

Mental Health DataSourceRegion
The US had over 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period.CDC (December 2020)US
During late June 2020, 40% of US adults reported to be struggling with mental health or substance abuse.CDC (June 2020)US
Of adults surveyed, 10.7% had thoughts of suicide compared to 4.3% in 2018.CDC (August 2020)US
Reported symptoms of anxiety were three times higher than they were in Q2 2019 and reported symptoms of depression were four times higher than they were in Q2 2019.CDC (August 2020)US
Of individuals aged 18-24, 25.5% considered suicide.CDC (August 2020)US
In New York alone, Google searches increased for phrases and words: anxiety, panic attack, and insomnia.JAMA (October 2020)New York
Between April and October, the portion of emergency visits related to mental health for children (5-11) increased by 24% and 31% for 12-17 year olds compared to 2019.CDC (November 2020)US
In late June, 13% of survey respondents said they had started or increased substance use to cope with the pandemic.CDC (August 2020)US
Synthetic opioid-related overdose deaths increased 38.4% in the 12-month period leading up to June 2019 compared with the 12-month period leading up to May 2020.CDC (December 2020)US
More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality.AMA (October 2020)US
From January 2020 to March 2020, 19,416 people died from drug overdoses, which is 3,000 more than in 2019 of the same quarter.CDC (2020)US
Seven in ten Gen-Z adults (18-23) reported to have experienced symptoms of depression between August 4 to 26.APA (October 2020)US
About one-in-three individuals experienced mild to severe depression symptoms during lockdowns.National Library of MedicineMalaysia
Admissions and referrals to mental health services decreased following the lockdown.BJPsych OpenUK

Hunger & Poverty

Hunger & Food Insecurity DataSourceRegion
Hunger caused by the pandemic is responsible for the deaths of 10,000 children.The Lancet (July 2020)Worldwide
Approximately 20 million more children (67 million total) will suffer from wasting (weakening of the body from emaciation) in the first 12 months of the pandemic.The Lancet (July 2020)Worldwide
Number of undernourished individuals may increase from 690 to 822 million people.WHO (October 2020)Worldwide
Rate of food insecurity from 2018 to mid-2020 has more than doubled (14% to 32%) for households with children.Brookings (September 2020)US
Between 9 and 14 percent of parents report their children did not have enough to eat because they could not afford food.Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (September 2020)US
In March alone, food banks gave out 20 percent more food than in an average month.Feeding America (July 2020)US
“COVID-19-induced disruptions of school feeding services increased households’ experiences of food insecurity, increasing the probability of skipping a meal by 9 percentage points…and the likelihood of going without eating for a whole day by 3 percentage points.”The Journal of NutritionNigeria
The number of child deaths in six Asian countries is expected to have increased by 228,641 in 2020.UNICEFAsia
Poverty DataSourceRegion
Around 88 to 115 million people will fall into extreme poverty this year. The total could rise to 150 million by 2021.World Bank (October 2020)Worldwide
About 86 million children may fall into poverty.UNICEF and Save the Children (May 2020)Worldwide

The Economy

The Economy DataSourceRegion
Between March 25 and April 10, “nearly one-third of adults (31.0 percent) reported that their families could not pay the rent, mortgage, or utility bills, were food insecure, or went without medical care because of the cost.”Urban Institute (April 2020)US
52% of 18 to 29 year-olds are living with their parents as of July 2020 (47% in February), a record number of available data that surpasses the 48% living with parents in 1940 (during the Great Depression).Pew Research (September 2020)US
Q2 2020 GDP decreased at an annual rate of 32.9%, and Q1 2020 GDP decreased at an annual rate of 5%.BEA (July 2020)US
Between March 25 and April 10, 41.5% of nonelderly adults reported having lost jobs, reduced work hours, or less income because of Covid-19.Urban Institute (April 2020)US
From March 2020, there was a significant decline in employment and income in middle and low income countries. Households experienced a drop in income somewhere between 8 and 87%.Science AdvancesAfrica and Asia


Unemployment StatisticSourceRegion
Unemployment rate increased to 14.7% in April 2020. This is the highest rate of increase (10.3%) and largest month over month increase in history of available data (since 1948).BLS (May 2020)US
In March, 39% of people living with a household income of $40,000 and below reported a job loss.Federal Reserve (April 2020)US
The unemployment rate between February and April increased by 12% for women and 10% for men.Bureau of Labor StatisticsUS
Mothers of children aged 12 and younger lost 2.2 million jobs between February and August (12% drop), while fathers of small children lost 870,000 jobs (4% drop).Stateline (August 2020)US
One out of four women who were surveyed reported their job loss was due to lack of childcare, twice the rate of men surveyed.Washington Post (July 2020)US


Education StatisticSourceRegion
About 24 million children may drop out of school next year as a result of the lockdown’s economic impact.UN (October 2020)Worldwide
A decrease in life expectancy by 5.53 million years of life is found to occur for US children due to the closing of US primary schools.JAMA (November 2020)US
30,806 internships were lost (a decrease of 52%) between March 9 and April 13.Glassdoor (April 2020)US
Between March 9 and April 13 travel & tourism internships fell 92%; IT dropped 76%, architecture & engineering 65% and telecommunications 65%. Accounting & legal internships fell the least, dropping 22%.Glassdoor (April 2020)US
Preschool participation sharply fell from 71% pre-pandemic to 54% during pandemic; the decline was steeper for young children in poverty.National Institute for Early Education Research, Rutgers UniversityUS


Healthcare StatisticSourceRegion
At the 10-week mark of lockdown, 2.1 million people in the UK were waiting for breast, cervical, or bowel cancer screening.Cancer Research UK (June 2020)UK
Diagnosis for 6 cancers (breast, colorectal, lung, pancreatic, gastric, and esophageal) has declined 46.4% compared to 2018.JAMA Research Letter (August 2020)US
Pancreatic cancer diagnosis has dropped 24.7% compared to 2018.JAMA Research Letter (August 2020)US
Breast cancer diagnosis has dropped 51.8% compared to 2018.JAMA Research Letter (August 2020)US
“The Netherlands Cancer Registry has seen as much as a 40% decline in weekly cancer incidence.”JAMA Research Letter (August 2020)Netherlands
Pre-Covid, Medical University of South Carolina dropped from 20 stroke-related calls daily (or 550 per month) to about nine in mid-April.Washington Post (April 2020)US
UK (suspected) cancer referrals have decreased 75% since Covid-19 restrictions were implemented.JAMA Research Letter (August 2020)UK
38% decrease in STEMI treatments in 9 major hospitals across the US.JACC (June 2020)US
In Italy, cardiological diagnostic procedures decreased 56%, PCI 48%, structural interventions 81% and PCI in STEMI 40%.REC Interv. Cardiol. (2020)Italy
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the US; Premature cardiovascular disease and stroke mortality costs $137.5 billion in lost future productivity.AHA (2020)US
Admissions for chemotherapy decreased 45-66% while urgent referrals for early cancer diagnosis decreased 70-89%.Lai et al. (2020)UK
During April weekly emergency department (ED) visits declined 42% from the previous year average of 2.1 million to 1.2 million.CDC (October, 2020)US
In 2018 patients visiting the ER for opioid overdoses are 100 times more likely to die by drug overdose in the year after being discharged. They are 18 times more likely to die by suicide relative to the general population.NIMH (May 2020)US
Hospital financial losses will be as high as $323.1 billion for the entire year.AHA (July 2020)US
“Mortality rates for Alzheimer disease/dementia increased twice, between weeks ending March 21 and April 11 and between weeks ending June 6 and July 25.”JAMA (October 2020)US
Tuberculosis case notifications dropped significantly worldwide and by 25-30% in impacted countries (India, Indonesia, the Philippines)WHO (October 2020)Worldwide
Sixty-nine studies find a change in the pattern of cancer screenings, diagnoses, waiting lists, and treatments related to restrictions during the pandemic, fourteen find an increase in the presentation of late-stage cancer.Collateral Global (conglomeration of many sources)Multiple countries
“[A] cohort study of 83.7 million EMS patient encounters, overdose-associated cardiac arrests rose about 40% nationally in 2020, with the largest increases among racial/ethnic minorities, in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage, and in Western states.”JAMAUS
A study of about 500 individuals found a 55% increase in body weight.European Journal of Clinical InvestigationEurope
“Hospital admissions for all major non-covid-19 disease groups decreased during national lockdowns compared with the prepandemic baseline period.”BMJDenmark


Crime StatisticSourceRegion
During the first six months of 2020 murder and nonnegligent manslaughter offenses increased 14.8%, and aggravated assault offenses were up 4.6%.FBI (September 2020)US
Property crime offenses declined 7.8%; except for motor vehicle thefts, which increased 6.2%.FBI (September 2020)US
Arson increased 19.2% in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same time the previous year; and increased 52.1% in cities with populations of 1,000,000 or more.FBI (September 2020)US
Between June and August 2020 homicides increased 53% and aggravated assaults increased 14% compared to the same period in 2019.NCCJ (September 2020)US
A UK domestic abuse charity (Refuge) reported a 25% increase in calls made to helpline since the start of lockdowns.Refuge (April 2020)UK

Food and Hospitality

Food and Hospitality StatisticSourceRegion
Restaurants have spent an additional $7,400 on PPE and enhanced safety protocols (training, cleaning, Plexiglas, etc.) which will take 66% of businesses 6 months to recoup.QSR (September 2020)US
The restaurant industry is set to lose $240 billion in revenue and 8 million employees in 2020.QSR (September 2020)US
In May, nearly 75% of independent restaurants reported new debts greater than $50,000; 12% reported additional debt at $500,000 and above.FSR (August 2020)US
1 in 3 restaurants are expected to close.FSR (August 2020)US
86% of restaurants reduced staff due to Covid-19; 40% of restaurants expect to be out of business by March 2021.QSR (September 2020)US

Other resources: 

  • Collateral Global – A global repository of research concerned with collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures.
  • Lockdown Resistance – Focuses on Covid-19 policy impacts on wellbeing, quality of life and life-expectancy.
  • Retail Dive – Maintains a running list of 2020 retail bankruptcies.

AIER Staff

Founded in 1933, The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) educates people on the value of personal freedom, free enterprise, property rights, limited government, and sound money. AIER’s ongoing scientific research demonstrates the importance of these principles in advancing peace, prosperity, and human progress.

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