Will “Deaths of Despair” Outpace Deaths from Coronavirus?

By Toby Rogers, Ph.D., Guest Contributor

By most accounts, modeling of the coronavirus epidemic by researchers at Imperial College London convinced the Trump administration to call for extreme social distancing (no more than 10 people gathered) in order to “flatten the [growth] curve” of the coronavirus epidemic. The Imperial College London modeling also became the basis for the 100 page “U.S. Government COVID-19 Response Plan.”

The Imperial College London model is woefully inadequate. It does not model increased use of personal protective equipment in the general public such as face masks. It does not model medical interventions that have shown promise in reducing fatalities including chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin, and intravenous L-ascorbic acid. And the Imperial College London model does not take into account “deaths of despair” from a sharp rise in unemployment that will be triggered by sheltering in place for weeks, months, or years (the “U.S. Government COVID-19 Response Plan” estimates that the “pandemic will last 18 months or longer”).

The social determinants of health

There is a large volume of academic literature on “the social determinants of health” and “deaths of despair” caused by increases in the unemployment rate. The pioneering work in this field was conducted by Harvey Brenner (then at Johns Hopkins University) on behalf of the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress in the mid 1970s. Reviewing U.S. historical data over the period 1940 to 1973, Brenner found that:

…a 1% increase in the unemployment rate sustained over a period of six years has been associated (during the past three decades) with increases of 36,887 total deaths, including 20,240 cardiovascular deaths, 920 suicides, 648 homicides, 495 deaths from cirrhosis of the liver, 4,227 state mental hospital admissions, and 3,340 state prison admission.

Brenner’s estimates held up in subsequent studies of England & Wales, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. It should be noted that there is also a large volume of literature that is critical of the Brenner model (see e.g. Cohen & Felson, 1979).

Brenner’s estimates are based on population figures from 1970. According to the U.S. Census bureau, the U.S. population was 205.1 million in 1970 and 327.2 million in 2018 — an increase in the population of 59.5%. So the actual increase in mortality caused by a 1% increase in the unemployment rate today (if it persisted for five years) might be closer to 58,834 lives lost. A more recent meta analysis of 42 studies conducted in 15 countries on the relationship between unemployment and all-cause mortality found that unemployment increased the risk of dying by 63% (Roelfs et al. 2011).

So how many additional deaths will be caused in the U.S. by the increase in the unemployment rate caused by government orders to shelter in place? That depends on a lot of factors including the number unemployed and the length of unemployment. The official unemployment rate in February 2020 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was 3.5%. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned lawmakers of the possibility of a 20% unemployment rate from coronavirus shutdowns unless Congress passes a $1 trillion stimulus plan (although he walked the statement back the next day). New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota all report 10- to 12-fold increases in the filing of unemployment claims last week […]

Via https://childrenshealthdefense.org/news/will-deaths-of-despair-outpace-deaths-from-coronavirus/

© Mar 23 2020 Children’s Health Defense, Inc. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of Children’s Health Defense, Inc. Want to learn more from Children’s Health Defense? Sign up for free news and updates from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Children’s Health Defense. Your donation will help to support us in our efforts.

4 thoughts on “Will “Deaths of Despair” Outpace Deaths from Coronavirus?

    • New Zealand starts on lockdown – schools closed and no one leaving their house except for shopping, pharmacy needs, banking and service stations at midnight tonight. Our neighborhood has responded by creating a Neighbourhood COVID-19 support network to support elderly and disabled with no Internet access and who need food delivery. NZ has had no COVID-19 deaths thus far and hopefully we can keep it that way.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Rebel that I am, I go out when the government tells me to stay home. I squeeze tomatoes in the grocery store with my bare hands. In my self-appointed role of taking the pulse of the planet, I interview everyone I meet about whether they know of anyone who even knows anyone who has been affected by the coronavirus.

    I don’t have a television, so am socially distanced from the mass hysteria created by the media about this usually opportunistic infection that is so benign as to be asymptomatic in healthy individuals.

    I’m fine with staying home, which I prefer, to the frenzy that characterizes Humanland most of the time. As one of the few brave rebels who ventures forth, I find the relative calm of other brave, rebellious souls refreshing, and traffic is minimal.

    But the Army still flies its war planes and helicopters over my house, and the Gun Club down the street still blazes away at the clay pigeons it likes to shoot, and the police and ambulances still like to out-loud my two roosters, in their competition for testosterone-dominance, so the fresh air and sunshine of my formerly peaceful, formerly semi-rural homestead is compromised by the onslaught of other people’s panic.

    We have just passed the spring equinox, symbolic of new beginnings. I’m heavily into a gardening phase, beating back the jungle, communing with Ma Nature and all the critters, both wild and domesticated, who exhibit an easy-goingness that it’s hard to find these days in Humanland.

    Live while you still can.


  2. Good for you, Katherine. Here going out for exercise is encouraged provided your “household” unit stays at least 2 metres from non-household members. I notice lots of people going for “walks.” In fact I see many of my neighbors out more and interacting than previously. Now that all the groups I belong to have been canceled, I’m taking the opportunity to paint my ceilings.


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