COVID-19 could cause 75K deaths from suicide, substance use

The high levels of stress, isolation and unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic could cause up to 75,000 deaths from suicides, drugs and alcohol, known collectively as "deaths of despair," according to a new report cited by CNN

In 2018, there were 181,686 deaths of despair. Researchers from the Well Being Trust and the Robert Graham Center used this figure as a baseline to quantify how the pandemic's economic consequences may affect this annual total. They examined projected unemployment rates for 2020-29, as unemployment is a known risk factor for suicide and substance use disorder. 

Researchers mapped out nine different scenarios based on how quickly the economy may recover and how much unemployment affects deaths of despair. They projected additional deaths of despair could be as low as 27,644 annually if there is a quick economic turnaround or as high as 154,037 if it is slower. 

The researchers noted the data are simply projections and that deaths of despair could be prevented through national action, such as expanding access to mental healthcare. 

To view the full report, click here.


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