Data Shows Lockdowns Have Made Americans Significantly Less Healthy

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
Font Size:

More states are beginning to re-implement stronger COVID-19 restrictions as the virus surges, and some data indicates that measures like lockdowns are creating adverse health effects for many Americans. 

Restrictions banning gatherings, taking children out of school, and curbing business activity have been put in place with the goal of stopping transmission of the coronavirus. However, they also appear to be making Americans more depressed, more overweight, and less active than before. 

The United States is already one of the most obese countries in the world, and lockdowns have coincided with many Americans gaining more weight. A global survey by Pennington Biomedical Research Center, in which a majority of the respondents were American, found that about 28% of people had gained weight during lockdowns. (RELATED: Report: San Francisco Opens Gyms For City Employees — Private Gyms Still In Lockdown)

The Pennington survey also found that among those who were already obese, despite generally eating healthier thanks to less trips to restaurants, 33% of people gained weight. Respondents indicated an increase in sedentary leisure activity, while the amount of physical activity individuals got per week declined. 

43% of those surveyed by Pennington also reported worsening sleep quality, with only 10% reporting they got better sleep. Sleep troubles and obesity are often connected, and good sleep habits can boost the immune system. Obesity and a weakened immune system are both considered high-risk factors for people who become infected with COVID-19. 

Isolation and inactivity are strongly correlated with mental health disorders, and those trends have not ceased during the coronavirus pandemic. The most recent data from the CDC found that 42% of Americans have recently experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression disorders. That represents a sizable increase from only 11% in the first half of 2019. 

The problem is especially pronounced in younger people. The number of emergency department visits for mental health problems has increased by about 24% this year compared to 2019 in children aged 5-11, according to the CDC. In children aged 12-17, the increase jumps to 31%. 

Unfortunately, the trend may prove to be measurable in excess deaths as well. The official 2020 suicide rate in the United States won’t be reported until some time further in the future, but a June survey by the CDC found that the number of American adults who had “seriously considered suicide” in the last 30 days had doubled from previous rates. The number in young adults, aged 18-24, reached almost 25%. 

More Americans are now turning to harmful vices as their mental health deteriorates as well. Liquor sales have skyrocketed as spirits stores remained open in many states during lockdowns, and cigarette sales are trending upward too. (RELATED: REPORT: Business Owner In California Says He’s Forced To Flee State Over Lockdown Restrictions)

Unemployment, which substantially increased across the country during lockdowns, is another factor known to be associated with poor health outcomes. Research indicates that unemployed persons could experience a drop in lifespan of up to a year and a half, and the suicide rate in America and western Europe may increase by as much as 1% for every 1% of unemployment, Reuters reports

Lockdowns also frequently required a rationing of medical supplies and personnel, as some states ban or otherwise restrict optional and preventative procedures. A May letter sent by physicians to the White House highlighted that hundreds of thousands of Americans missed things like routine cancer screenings and dental appointments during lockdowns which could result in a failure to prevent major health issues down the road like cancer or heart problems. 

The removal of children from schools is causing noticeable declines in cognitive and social development in America’s young people. Students fall behind in math and reading during long layoffs from school, and a U.K. study found that many young kids have lost progress in basic developmental areas like potty training and motor skills. 

Kids struggling through zoom school isn’t just a short-term problem, though. Lower educational achievement is associated with a host of long-term medical risks. (RELATED: Coronavirus Lockdowns Are Forcing Students To Miss Time In School. Here’s How It Could Impact Their Future)

Americans with less education are more likely to have heart disease and diabetes. Those without a college degree also have much shorter lifespans, on average, and experience higher healthcare costs over the course of their lives, according to VCU’s Center On Society And Health.

Kids who are deprived of regular, in-person social play are more likely to develop mental health issues as adolescents, research indicates. As the pandemic goes on, parents are reporting that their kids are spending more time on social media because of isolation and it’s having a negative effect on them. 

Heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death in the United States, killing more than 1.2 million Americans annually between the two of them, according to the CDC. The United States has now passed 280,000 total COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began.