The (High) Cost Of Lockdowns: A Preliminary Report

In the debate over coronavirus policy, there has been far too little focus on the costs of lockdowns. It’s very common for the proponents of these interventions to write articles and large studies without even mentioning the downsides. 

Here is a brief look at the cost of stringencies in the United States, and around the world, including stay-at-home orders, closings of business and schools, restrictions on gatherings, shutting of arts and sports, restrictions on medical services, and interventions in the freedom of movement. 

Mental Health

  • During late June 2020, 40% of US adults reported to be struggling with mental health or substance abuse. CDC (June 2020) US
  • Of adults surveyed, 10.7% had thoughts of suicide compared to 4.3% in 2018. CDC (August 2020) US
  • Reported symptoms of anxiety were three times higher than they were in Q2 2019 and reported symptoms of depression were four times higher than they were in Q2 2019.  CDC (August 2020)  US
  • Of individuals aged 18-24, 25.5% considered suicide.  CDC (August 2020) US
  • In New York alone, Google searches increased for phrases and words: anxiety, panic attack, and insomnia. JAMA (October 2020)  New York
  • Between April and October, the portion of emergency visits related to mental health for children (5-11) increased by 24% and 31% for 12-17 year olds compared to 2019.  CDC (November 2020)  US
  • In late June, 13% of survey respondents said they had started or increased substance use to cope with the pandemic.  CDC (August 2020) US
  • More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortalityAMA (October 2020) US
  • From January 2020 to March 2020, 19,416 people died from drug overdoses, which is 3,000 more than in 2019 of the same quarter. CDC (2020) US

The Economy


  • Unemployment rate increased to 14.7% in April 2020. This is the highest rate of increase (10.3%) and largest month over month increase in history of available data (since 1948).  BLS (May 2020)  US
  • In March, 39% of people living with a household income of $40,000 and below reported a job loss.  Federal Reserve (April 2020)  US
  • The unemployment rate between February and April increased by 12% for women and 10% for men.  Bureau of Labor Statistics  US
  • Mothers of children aged 12 and younger lost 2.2 million jobs between February and August (12% drop), while fathers of small children lost 870,000 jobs (4% drop).  Stateline (August 2020)  US
  • One out of four women who were surveyed reported their job loss was due to lack of childcare, twice the rate of men surveyed.  Washington Post (July 2020)  US


  • About 24 million children may drop out of school next year as a result of the lockdown’s economic impact.  UN (October 2020)  Worldwide
  • A decrease in life expectancy by 5.53 million years of life is found to occur for US children due to the closing of US primary schools.  JAMA (November 2020)  US
  • 30,806 internships were lost (a decrease of 52%) between March 9 and April 13.  Glassdoor (April 2020)  US
  • Between March 9 and April 13 travel & tourism internships fell 92%; IT dropped 76%, architecture & engineering 65% and telecommunications 65%. Accounting & legal internships fell the least, dropping 22%.  Glassdoor (April 2020)  US


  • At the 10-week mark of lockdown, 2.1 million people in the UK were waiting for breast, cervical, or bowel cancer screening.  Cancer Research UK (June 2020)  UK
  • Diagnosis for 6 cancers (breast, colorectal, lung, pancreatic, gastric, and esophageal) has declined 46.4% compared to 2018.  JAMA Research Letter (August 2020)  US
  • Pancreatic cancer diagnosis has dropped 24.7% compared to 2018.  JAMA Research Letter (August 2020)  US
  • Breast cancer diagnosis has dropped 51.8% compared to 2018.  JAMA Research Letter (August 2020)  US
  • “The Netherlands Cancer Registry has seen as much as a 40% decline in weekly cancer incidence.”  JAMA Research Letter (August 2020)  Netherlands
  • Pre-Covid, Medical University of South Carolina dropped from 20 stroke-related calls daily (or 550 per month) to about nine in mid-April.  Washington Post (April 2020)  US
  • UK (suspected) cancer referrals have decreased 75% since Covid-19 restrictions were implemented.  JAMA Research Letter (August 2020)  UK
  • 38% decrease in STEMI treatments in 9 major hospitals across the US. JACC (June 2020)  US
  • In Italy, cardiological diagnostic procedures decreased 56%, PCI 48%, structural interventions 81% and PCI in STEMI 40%.  REC Interv. Cardiol. (2020)  Italy
  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the US; Premature cardiovascular disease and stroke mortality costs $137.5 billion in lost future productivity.  AHA (2020)  US
  • Admissions for chemotherapy decreased 45-66% while urgent referrals for early cancer diagnosis decreased 70-89%.  Lai et al. (2020)  UK
  • During April weekly emergency department (ED) visits declined 42% from the previous year average of 2.1 million to 1.2 million.  CDC (October, 2020)  US
  • In 2018 patients visiting the ER for opioid overdoses are 100 times more likely to die by drug overdose in the year after being discharged. They are 18 times more likely to die by suicide relative to the general population.  NIMH (May 2020)  US
  • Hospital financial losses will be as high as $323.1 billion for the entire year.  AHA (July 2020)  US


  • During the first six months of 2020 murder and nonnegligent manslaughter offenses increased 14.8%, and aggravated assault offenses were up 4.6%.  FBI (September 2020)  US
  • Property crime offenses declined 7.8%; except for motor vehicle thefts, which increased 6.2%.  FBI (September 2020)  US
  • Arson increased 19.2% in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same time the previous year; and increased 52.1% in cities with populations of 1,000,000 or more.  FBI (September 2020)  US
  • Between June and August 2020 homicides increased 53% and aggravated assaults increased 14% compared to the same period in 2019.  NCCJ (September 2020)  US
  • A UK domestic abuse charity (Refuge) reported a 25% increase in calls made to helpline since the start of lockdowns.  Refuge (April 2020)  UK

Food and Hospitality

  • Restaurants have spent an additional $7,400 on PPE and enhanced safety protocols (training, cleaning, Plexiglas, etc.) which will take 66% of businesses 6 months to recoup.  QSR (September 2020)  US
  • The restaurant industry is set to lose $240 billion in revenue and 8 million employees in 2020.  QSR (September 2020)  US
  • In May, nearly 75% of independent restaurants reported new debts greater than $50,000; 12% reported additional debt at $500,000 and above.  FSR (August 2020)  US
  • 1 in 3 restaurants are expected to close.  FSR (August 2020)  US
  • 86% of restaurants reduced staff due to Covid-19; 40% of restaurants expect to be out of business by March 2021.  QSR (September 2020)  US

But apart from that… lockdowns have been very successful?

Via The American Institute for Economic Research