The Pandemic’s Financial Fallout Could Prove Deadly for Decades
The indirect Covid-19 effects could kill an additional 1.4 million Americans across 20 years
Even after the pandemic dust settles and all the direct Covid-19 deaths are counted, Americans will continue dying for decades due to economic stress from job losses and other financial impacts, history suggests. The economic fallout could lead to an additional 1.4 million excess, pandemic-related deaths over the next 20 years, according to new projections.
The deaths could be prevented. Policymakers should consider the grim prognosis when crafting plans to curb the spread of the coronavirus but also when pondering economic stimuli, health care policies, and especially disparities in health care access, researchers argue in a working paper published by the private, nonpartisan, nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research.
The analysis, based on known historical recession effects and assumptions about how fast the overall U.S. economy will recover, was done by Francesco Bianchi, PhD, an economist at Duke University; Giada Bianchi, MD, a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Dongho Song, PhD, an assistant professor of finance at Johns Hopkins University.
Life expectancy to decline
Significant past unemployment shocks have led to increased death rates due to psychological and physical stresses contributing to everything from heart attacks to depression and suicide.
Based on that premise and the historical data from multiple previous studies, the researchers analyzed the long-term effects to be expected from the current economic crisis, in which unemployment in 2020 was near the worst it’s been in the post-WWII era. Notably, the job losses have disproportionately affected Black people, women (particularly Hispanic women), people age 24 and younger, and poorer people.
As a backdrop, U.S. life expectancy had already leveled off in recent years, actually falling in 2015, 2016, and 2017, after decades of steady increases. Globally, the United States ranks 50th in life expectancy, an exceptionally poor showing rooted largely in extreme disparities in health care between the best-performing…