U.S. Risks Years of Higher Mortality on Covid’s Economic Fallout

The U.S. could see an elevated death rate for more than a decade as the economic fallout from the coronavirus persists, underscoring the long-term health impact of the deep recession.

The nation’s mortality rate is forecast to increase 3% while life expectancy will drop 0.5% over the next 15 years, representing 890,000 more American deaths, according to a working paper from researchers at Duke, Harvard and Johns Hopkins universities. Over a 20-year period, that amounts to 1.37 million additional deaths.

That will disproportionately hit Black Americans and women in the near term, though may also carry long-term consequences for White men. For every 100,000 citizens, an additional 33 African Americans and 25 White people could die as a direct result of the economic impacts stemming from Covid-19, the data show.

The new data highlight the recession’s reach, with long-lasting effects, even after a vaccine is widely available and short-term aid from the federal government supports people’s incomes. Recessions are closely tied to health and mortality, with higher unemployment worsening outcomes for Americans.

During the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the unemployment rate shot up to nearly 15% and peaked at even higher levels for Black Americans and Hispanic workers. The fallout continues: about 800,000 Americans have been filing for unemployment each week while the ranks of long-term unemployed rise.

“Large, sustained and swift government maneuvers to support the currently unemployed labor force and to abate unemployment will be as equally important as the massive efforts focused on limiting and eventually eradicating transmission” of Covid-19, the researchers wrote in the paper distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Deaths of despair, or deaths by suicide and overdose, also jumped as much as 60% in the U.S. amid the pandemic and recession, according to a separate research paper from Casey Mulligan, a University of Chicago professor and former chief economist for President Donald Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Deaths from opioid overdoses, which were already elevated late in 2019, increased further in the early months of the pandemic, the research showed.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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