January 5, 2021
America’s youth is struggling with a pandemic right now, and it’s not COVID-19…
Lockdowns and isolation are devastating this generation.
Kids went from attending school with their peers and playing sports to staring at a screen all day alone in their rooms.
In a country where childhood obesity is running rampant, our youth are now stuck at home – eating more and moving much less, with drastically increased time spent on electronic devices.
And that’s just the physical impact… As Kristen Howerton in the New York Times writes,
The most important task facing teenagers is to detach from their parents and become their own, separate beings. In a time that is supposed to be punctuated by detaching, redefining themselves and spending time with peers, a whole generation of teens are stuck at home with their parents.
Isolation, stress, and reduced physical activity are taking a mental toll on this country’s youth… leading to an increase in drug use, drug overdoses, and suicide.
Today, we’re sharing an essay from economic and education policy writer Phillip Magness that tackles this dire epidemic happening in the U.S.
Lockdowns Are Killing Young Adults
By Phillip W. Magness
On December 16, the top-ranked Journal of the American Medical Association (“JAMA”) published a headline-grabbing article about the risks that COVID-19 poses to young people. The article and an accompanying New York Times piece by its authors strongly implied that people under the age of 45 face a higher risk from the disease and, furthermore, this risk is understated by official statistics.
This claim runs counter to the CDC’s own estimated Infection Fatality Ratios by age group, which suggests that the two youngest demographic groups (0 to 20 and 21 to 49) face a mortality risk that is lower than seasonal influenza. COVID-19 fatalities increase dramatically with age, and people over age 70 face a pronounced risk. However, young people face comparatively low risk. Indeed, CDC data show that persons under the age of 40 account for less than 2% of COVID fatalities despite also making up half of all known cases to date.
The JAMA study, however, contends that COVID deaths for persons under age 45 are severely underreported. To reach this conclusion they turn to excess death statistics for March through July 2020, as recently released by the CDC. They compare these figures to excess death estimates from the same months in 2018 to establish a baseline. Since opioid overdoses typically rank as a leading killer among this demographic, they use 2018 opioid deaths as a point of comparison. As the authors then assert:
Deaths due to COVID-19 exceeded 2018 unintentional opioid deaths during 1 month in 2020 in HHS Region 2 (April), HHS region 6 (July), and HHS region 9 (July), and either exceeded (HHS Region 6) or were similar to (HHS Regions 2 and 9) unintentional opioid deaths during the entire study period.
By implication, COVID has overtaken opioid overdoses as a leading killer among the young, thereby illustrating its risk to this age group. The national news media predictably bit at the story, and produced a flurry of articles announcing that young people face a higher COVID-19 risk than conventionally thought. CBS News, for example, declared that “Young adults may think their age group isn’t at risk from COVID-19, but new research suggests that idea is dangerously mistaken.”
However, the JAMA study contained a little-noticed caveat in a single sentence at the end of the article:
Additionally, although COVID-19 deaths exceeded unintentional opioid deaths in 2018 in some areas, it is possible that simultaneous increases in opioid deaths may have occurred during the pandemic period, making it less clear which of these 2 diseases represents the current leading cause of death among younger adults in areas experiencing COVID-19 surges.
The concession itself is stunning. If opioid overdose deaths are up compared to their 2018 baseline, that could explain the surge in excess deaths among young people rather than the speculated undercounting of COVID fatalities.
Opioid and other substance abuse problems have a well-documented connection to mental despair and economic downturns alike. The lockdown policies that have plagued the United States since the spring have unleashed their own mental health pandemic, in addition to destroying the national employment sector. It’s not unreasonable to conclude that younger people are among the hardest hit by these dual lockdown punches.
On December 18, just two days after the JAMA study came out, the Centers for Disease Control released preliminary data that strongly suggest the alternative explanation is correct. Substance abuse deaths including opioid overdoses have dramatically increased since the 2018 numbers that the JAMA article used as its baseline.
Furthermore, those already-increasing overdose deaths dramatically accelerated after the start of the lockdowns. The new CDC study shows this uptick across all measured categories of substance abuse deaths for April through June, the only months for which records are available as of this writing. In all likelihood, this pattern will continue when data are eventually made available for the summer and fall of 2020.
Although the CDC statistics do not break down these numbers by age, it is reasonable to assume that they heavily overlap with younger demographics in keeping with historical patterns from the ongoing problem of substance abuse. An unprecedented spike in overdose deaths, as well as other depression-related ailments such as suicides that were brought on by the lockdowns, accordingly emerge as the more plausible candidate for the excess death spike among young people compared to previous years.
Curiously, the authors of the JAMA article did not explore this alternative hypothesis in any depth beyond the single-sentence acknowledgement at the end of their article. Perhaps more revealing, the editors of the JAMA piece did not insist on any further investigation of this obvious and crucial complication to attributing excess deaths among the young to COVID itself.
Like so many instances before, another top medical journal has now contributed to the widespread dissemination of incomplete and misleading scientific inferences. Our news media then predictably seized on the same faulty conclusions and shoehorned them into a political narrative that confirmed their own pro-lockdown ideological commitments.
Meanwhile, the larger story of the substance abuse deaths that arise not from COVID but from the lockdown policies that they advocate gets lost amid the press’ hectoring of young people with exaggerated claims about the severity of pandemic deaths within their demographic.
Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Economic Research.
Recommended Reading: A Massive Wave of Bankruptcies is Coming
A major shock is coming to the U.S. financial system. The election results won’t matter (but a long court battle or a wave of riots could make things MUCH worse). Months of stock gains could go up in smoke. But there’s an easy way to make sure your money and prospective gains are LEGALLY-PROTECTED. The last time something similar happened you could have seen 772% gains. A real reader explains how he does it, in plain English, right here.
For more reading on this, check out these articles…
Mitch Daniels: Lockdowns needed a warning label, too
The nation has been well served in 2020 by its scientists and epidemiologists. Their expertise and, therefore, their advice have been focused on the minimization of viral spread; no one asked them for guidance about damage to educational attainment, economic prosperity or even other health consequences.
The Lockdown Is Hurting Our Children
Kids who otherwise would be playing sports, or at least running around at recess and playing in public parks, are sitting indoors, reading books and playing video games and eating for comfort: a perfect formula for losing muscle and gaining fat.
Children May Be the Silent Victims of Coronavirus
A significant body of research suggests that such a prolonged absence from school can be detrimental educationally and developmentally, and especially harmful for low-income students.
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Managing Editor, American Consequences
With P.J. O’Rourke
January 5, 2021