By: Gittan Alicia | Contributing AOJ Journalist
Everyone is focused on Corona’s impact on the physical well-being of oneself and others, but what about the Corona impact on mental health. The emotional nature of humans makes one susceptible to irrational fear and increases one’s tendency to become focused on an issue that may not even really be as bad as it is. People act and react not just out of fact, but out of emotion, and in many cases, purely out of emotion. As a society of people, we have focused on the terrible effects Corona has on a portion of our society, and we have gone into panic mode, completely ignoring the mental repercussions of our decisions and the rational comparison between a single disease and the effects of shutting down a nation and its economy.
Shutting down an entire nation over a disease is an unprecedented action and there is a reason for that. Shutting down a nation certainly does not come without a cost, in fact, in most scenarios, shutting down a nation brings about far more harm than benefit and the rash thinking involved with Corona will likely fall into such category. Looking at the raw data from the Diamond Princess Cruise, an early case of Corona outbreak, of the 3,711 passengers and crew, 712 people tested positive for Coronavirus. That is 19.19% of all passengers and crew testing positive, and of that percentage tested positive 331 (46.49%) were asymptomatic, meaning they displayed no symptoms. A total of 381 tested positive with symptoms, meanwhile, 37 (5.20%) of those infected required intensive care and 9 (1.26%) of those infected died. Noting that all percentages are related to the 712 tested positive, we must also take a look at the age of those infected and those on the cruise at the time. According to Eurosurveillance (Europe’s journal on infectious disease surveillance, epidemiology, prevention and control), as of the 20th of February 2020, of the 643 tested positive, an overwhelming majority was in the age range of 60 through 80 years of age. In fact, 476 out of the 643 tested positive (74.03%) were over 60 years of age. Furthermore, of the 37 requiring intensive care from COVID-19, 11 of them were US citizens left in Japan for care and these 11 had a median age of 75. Additionally, according to a Fox News article from March 13, all 7 people who had died by that time were 70 or older. Thus, it is apparent that the disease primarily targets older people, who generally have a less healthy immune system. Now let’s compare this data to the effects of a nationwide shutdown.
With the current nationwide shutdown taking place, numerous small businesses and service-based businesses are being shut down, while “essential”, that is whatever the government deems essential, places are being allowed to stay open. These are places like hospitals, medical services, grocery stores, gas stations, and drug stores. With this comes limited finances for the businesses now unable to operate, meaning job layoffs in the long term and people unable to pay rent. In other words, a significant part of the workforce is cut off and unemployment rates increase significantly, and with that comes mass homelessness. Using data put together by the Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for analysis, 50.390 million people would be at risk of losing their jobs from a nationwide shutdown and in a worst-case scenario, 42.408 million would, in fact, lose their jobs, that is 27% of the entire workforce. Combining that with the pre-existing unemployed, 6.002 million people, there would be 48.410 million unemployed out of a total labor force of 163.540, raising the unemployment rate to 29.6% from 3.67%.
This is where mental wellness comes into play. With so many people out of work, homeless, and on top of that caught up in a national crisis, suicides and death just from stress will increase significantly. In fact, per 1% unemployment increase 40,000 people die, as stated on the Big Short and confirmed by Dr. M. Harvey Brenner’s research. Meaning there could be 1.044 million US citizen deaths from unemployment due to the Corona panic. COVID-19 (Corona) on the other hand, has claimed a total of 3,431 lives in the US thus far, compared to the flu which has claimed between 29,000 and 59,000 lives this year so far and claims tens of thousands of lives each year. Even if Corona were to claim 100,000 lives, it would not be worth a nation-wide shutdown. The situation the Corona scare is creating will make many people depressed and in a far worse condition than if they had just caught Corona and taken the 99% chance of survival.
In further terms of mental health, people are freaking out already over Corona without a nationwide shutdown. The nonstop reporting of Corona and state shutdowns is making people believe Corona is worse and worse of a thing regardless of whether or not it actually is. The mental health of US citizens is being impacted because they are scared and everywhere they look they see more disaster. The US is in a national crisis, and that causes great stress, despair, and depression within a population. Is the over-reaction caused by a disease that is only about as deadly as the flu and only really targets those over 60 really worth it? Parents are scared for their children despite the data because humans are emotional creatures and the only thing being reported on is Corona and its physical effects. People are fixated and it is harming their mental health.
On top of all this, the lockdowns and partial lockdowns many are currently experiencing is limiting face to face social reaction. Regardless of whether one is an introvert or extrovert, social interactions in person are a fundamental human need, and while one’s family is to some degree sufficient, it is not the same as spending time with good friends. People are bored out of their minds in lockdown. Most people go out to hang out because there is more to do and it’s much more enjoyable than being cooped up at home, plus it gives one time to destress. Some people may also have mental conditions wherein a fundamental way of handling it is to be active, busy, and to interact face to face. Routine is essential to the mental health of many, but the Corona stay is ruining this for many. The mental impact of Corona is already bad, but if the mass panic from Corona goes further and the whole nation shuts down, the mental health of the US will be headed for a sharp decline
(Statistical analysis on unemployment is based on 2019 employment data)
Kenji Mizumoto|Katsushi Kagaya|Alexander Zarebski|Gerardo Chowell. (2020, March 12). Estimating the asymptomatic proportion of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases on board the diamond princess cruise ship, Yokohama, Japan, 2020. Eurosurveillance. Retrieved March 25, 2020, from https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.25.10.2000180#html_fulltext
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