A new study finds lockdowns 10 times more costly to public health than not locking down

"The decision to adopt repeated or prolonged lockdown measures cannot be based on COVID-19 numbers alone. Instead, we need to better recognize the risks and trade-offs inherent in our public health measures against COVID."


Proponents of lockdowns have continuously touted lockdowns as the way to curb the virus. When faced with the obvious economic damage caused by the lockdown, they in turn do not take time to point out that we cannot sacrifice lives for the economy. However, more and more evidence shows that lockdowns do more than harm the economy. And in reality, recessions have a damaging effect on length and quality of life.

A lot of evidence points to the health impacts of lockdowns especially on the mental health of young adults as well as children. And just recently a new study has evidence proving that lockdowns could actually be 10 times more harmful to public health than not locking down. According to the authors of the report, Ari Joffe,

The decision to adopt repeated or prolonged lockdown measures cannot be based on COVID-19 numbers alone. Instead, we need to better recognize the risks and trade-offs inherent in our public health measures against COVID.

We see by the impact that the response to controlling the COVID-19 has had on other public health sectors, that people did not take into account other health effects from locking down. In rich countries like the US and UK, for example,

Fear of attending hospitals resulted in 50 percent declines in visits for heart attacks and strokes, meaning missed opportunity for time-critical treatments. ‘Non-urgent’ surgery and cancer diagnosis/treatment were delayed, with backlogs that will take years of catch-up and untold effects on prognoses. Of excess mortality during the pandemic, 20-50 percent has not been due to COVID-19 (see Kontis et al. 2020; Docherty et all 2020; and Postill et al 2020); much of that excess is likely attributable to these collateral effects. An unexplained increase in deaths of people with dementia in the US and UK also likely arose from deterioration due to loneliness. Over time, suicide, depression, alcohol use disorder, childhood trauma due to domestic violence, changes in marital status, and social isolation are projected to cause millions of years of life lost in Canada alone.

To measure a more accurate cost-benefit analysis of locking down, Ari Joffe uses the measure Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALY), whereby QALY is the “sum of years lived by the population, weighted by the health quality of those years.” Health is a combination of the length of life as well as the quality of life. And lockdowns even though they have saved lives, have had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of numerous individuals.

This is especially important to take into consideration given the fact that individuals face different levels of health risk when it comes to the virus. The risk of death in infected children, for instance, is 100 to 1000 times lower than in those above 80.

So, with numerous factors taken into account, the study finds that the global cost of the lockdown came to about 250 million QALY while only saving roughly 25 million QALY. This is after assuming reduced government expenditure on determinants of wellbeing due to the recession caused by the lockdown. Thus by focusing merely on controlling down one disease with lockdowns, at the expense of other determinants of well-being, lawmakers have done 10 times more damage to public health than if they had not locked down.

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This article was republished with permission from the Center of the American Experiment.