In a previous article, I outlined the biological and cultural reasons why young people, mostly referring to those under the age of 30, are particularly vulnerable to the isolation as well as lifestyle disruptions brought about by lockdowns. This article will highlight some of the real damage that has been caused by such policies. Although it may be tempting to claim that such damage is necessarily due to the pandemic itself and not lockdowns, I explain how that is not the case in an article here.
An Outbreak of Suicidal Thoughts and Self-Harm
A study published by the National Academy of Sciences on students at the University of Pittsburgh found noticeable lifestyle disruptions on factors such as average steps per day, hours slept, and physical activity.
Substantial disruptions to lifestyle such as those depicted above are correlated with depression to which the study found large increases in study participants.
The study also noted that,
“We also observe a substantial drop in the number of hours spent interacting with friends, from approximately 1.5 h per day at the beginning of 2020 to less than 30 min per day at the end of April, a more than 50% decline. This drop is consistent with self-reported declines in face-to-face interactions… [w]e also document a drop in the number of work hours—driven by a subset of our participants who lost their jobs as a result of the campus closure—and a significant drop in the number of hours spent studying in the second half of the semester.”
Such disruptions to lifestyle negatively affect mental health as well as important professional and academic opportunities. The study concluded that it is clear that college students are a vulnerable population in which the pandemic is taking a heavy toll. Even more worryingly the study also found that,
“Finally, while disruption of physical habits is a leading predictor of depression during COVID-19, the restoration of habits through our short-term intervention does not help restore well-being during the pandemic.”
This conclusion is referring to a test to measure if targeted increases in physical activity such as increased step count would improve mental health, which is a common word of advice to help cope with lockdowns. The study found that although there were some improvements to mental health, overall such measures could not produce a substantial improvement to mental health.
The results for the general population have not been good. According to the American Medical Association,
“More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality as well as ongoing concerns for those with a mental illness or substance use disorder.”
This statistic is likely exacerbated by the fact that lockdowns have not only reduced access to care for drug overdose victims but increased the market share of more potent drugs such as fentanyl which are easier to smuggle. An article in New Europe says,
“Adults under 30 experienced the highest increase in suicidal thinking in the same period, with rates of suicidal ideation rising from 12.5% to 14% in people aged 18-29. For many of the young adults surveyed, these mental health challenges persisted into the summer, despite a loosening of restrictions.”