Review | The blockade protects the elderly. But at what cost to adult health?

Covid-19 has mostly killed elderly people. But since the start of the pandemic, the death rate for all causes of adulthood has risen by a higher percentage than the death rate for all causes of the elderly.

When I heard that statistic I thought it must have been a mistake. If Covid destroys the old population, how could it be that young adults have the highest rate of death?

To see for myself, I downloaded it from the National Health Statistics Center according to the total age of deaths in the United States. Here is a table based on these numbers:

The explanation for the anomaly is that the basic mortality rate for young adults is very low, so a large increase in its percentage also means fewer additional deaths than the lower mortality rate for older people. (The table shows more than death rates, but the percentage changes are roughly the same as long as there is no significant change in population size).

One reaction to these numbers is to say that they deviate from Covid’s tremendous toll on older people. But another reaction is that the rise in deaths among young adults is staggering in itself and needs to be further explored. The table shows that the number of people aged 25 to 44 who died of all causes in the United States in 2021 was 52 percent higher than the average number of deaths in 2015 to 2019. above the headlines, if not for the greater tragedy of Covid’s deaths among the elderly.

The National Bureau of Economic Research, published this month in a working paper, calls the high death toll among young Americans a “historic health emergency, but largely unacceptable.” He wonders whether young adults were “side-damaged” by policies such as blockades that sought to protect older people.

Covid was not the strongest killer among adults under the age of 45, according to a study by Casey Mulligan of the University of Chicago and Robert Arnott, president of the investment firm Research Affiliates in Newport Beach, California. excessive death indirectly caused despair or boredom.

“Drugs, homicides, traffic fatalities and alcohol-related causes have killed tens of thousands of young people more than in the past,” the study says. “Deaths from various circulatory diseases and diabetes also rose. Suicides did not increase, although alcohol-related deaths and overdoses could be considered as a result of self-destructive behavior. Deaths were not, on average, increased among minors. ”

The causes of death were different among adults between the ages of 45 and 64: “Non-Covid mortality also increased, but almost all chronic causes associated with chronic causes such as circulatory disease, diabetes, obesity or liver disease. Homicide or trafficking -accident ».

They write: “All of this suggests that large and lasting changes in lifestyle habits designed to prevent a single virus cost not only the ‘economic’ opportunity costs, but also a huge number of young people’s lives.”

I’m not sure I agree with the apparent involvement of the authors in trying to shut down Covid in the United States, but whether one agrees or not, it’s important to have facts.

On a related topic, a reader of this bulletin asked me to identify a retiree in New York who asked me to study how the number of Covid deaths would improve Social Security finances (sorry honesty) for killing some beneficiaries. . The answer is not clear in the annual report of the Social Security Trusts for 2022, which was released on June 2.

So I interviewed Stephen Goss, the main actuary of Social Security. He said the long-term impact of Covid is expected to be small. One reason, he said, is that many of the elderly who have died as a result of Covid in the last two years have had other health problems and will die soon enough from something else. Another reason is that after the death of a beneficiary, the spouse gets a higher survival benefit in many cases, which offsets some savings for the trust funds.

Goss said there are two competing factors that Covid has a longer-term impact on beneficiary mortality rates. One is that they will be lower because the people who survived in the short term were healthier than those who died spontaneously. The other is that the death rates of those who did not die immediately after hiring Covid will increase, as many were damaged to some extent and will die prematurely. It is likely that these factors will be offset by a small net impact on long-term mortality rates. “It will take us years to determine if this is the right assumption,” he said.


In response to your newsletter on the U.S. technology sector on Wednesday, I don’t think the data provided by the Hamilton Center provides much information on the decline in innovative capabilities in advanced U.S. technology, or what to do beyond lobbying. Congress will impose more tax cuts for less innovative U.S. corporations and trade restrictions on more innovative foreign competitors. I recommend this study of semiconductor manufacturing and this view that corporate finance is undermining investment in innovation in the United States.

William Lazonick

Cambridge, Mass.

The writer is president of the Academy-Industry Research Network


“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how expensive it is to be poor.”

– James Baldwin, “No One Knows My Name” (1961)


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