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Long-term impacts of shutdowns could outweigh short-term health risks

Long-term impacts of shutdowns could outweigh short-term health risks

Long-term impacts of shutdowns could outweigh short-term health risks
July 27
15:30 2020

The unnecessary politicization of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) by President Donald Trump and the Democratic establishment has led to yet another division amongst the American people. Two camps have popped up on social media and it seems you have to belong to one or the other — either you think masks are an infringement on your rights, COVID was created by the Democratic elite and it’s no less deadly than the flu, or you think the end times are here and Trump is intentionally murdering thousands of American citizens. 

COVID-related shutdowns have suffered the same fate. The conservative wing of the country believes that shutdowns have economic consequences that outweigh the health risks of coronavirus and the liberal wing of the country believes that human lives matter more than the financial health of businesses.

While the economy is important, I believe the potential long-term health impacts of the shutdowns need to be talked about more. Let’s ignore that extended economic shutdowns could damage the financial standings of every person in the world for decades to come, thus decreasing their standard of living, and focus instead on some less obvious potential results. Human beings are social, communal creates by nature, and forcing everyone into their house might have several negative effects on future generation’s physical, emotional and psychological health.

Even with the advancement of Zoom and social media, online interaction will never replace in-person social interactions. Communications over digital media tend to be superficial and lacking in emotional vulnerability, according to data scientist Christine Aylett

Everyone felt lonely during the shutdown, right? Even if you had your family at home and talked to your friends in whatever online medium you prefer, you probably felt lonely more during closures than regularly. Being lonely not only sucks, but it has long-term negative health impacts, including higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide and an increased rate of death by any cause that almost rivals smoking and obesity, according to the Center for Disease Control. There’s a reason that solitary confinement is against the Geneva Convention.

Now extrapolate those feelings of loneliness and apply them to the elderly and children. We were all staying home to save our grandparents (except Dan Patrick). Extended periods of loneliness leads to a 50 percent higher chance of developing dementia at a younger age than average. While staying home could theoretically prolong Granny’s life, it could also be lowering the quality of life she’s experiencing, especially if she lives in a nursing home with strict regulations. My grandma lives in an assisted living care center in California that was hit with COVID and her social interactions were limited to her meals and medication being delivered throughout the day.

If schools don’t open in the fall, and I’m not saying they should, kids who would be attending traditional schooling environments will miss out on important social growth experiences. We’re already experiencing violent outbursts from kids who feel like they don’t fit in with society, stripping future generations of social interactions could perpetuate this issue.

Schools serve as an escape from emotionally or physically abusive home situations for kids around the country. Getting eight hours of solace away from a dangerous environment can be the only thing getting them through each day. 

Mental health aside, think of the physical health effects. Yes, more people are going on walks and getting in their 30 minutes of physical activity every day than when COVID started, according to University College London, but NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, essentially all of your physical activity that isn’t exercise, such as gardening, moving furniture, walking, etc.) is as important to physical health as the HIIT session you do every morning, according to professor James A. Levine. If you’re working from home or not going out to local businesses as much as you once were, your body won’t be staying in shape like it was pre-shutdown. Let’s be honest, we all sat on the couch a lot more during shutdowns. As a college student, walking across campus every day was a guaranteed way to get my steps in and keep my body working as it should. 

Gyms are closed in several states, marathons and triathlons are canceled, kids sports aren’t starting up — the list goes on and on. We don’t even know if the 2020 season for the National Football League, the most wealthy professional sports league in the country, is going to happen. If you wanted to circumvent the lack of available workout facilities and build your own home gym, the wait times are off the charts and inventories haven’t recovered from the sudden uptick in demand.

Shutdowns have eased across the country and a spike in COVID-19 cases has predictably followed. But before you die on the hill of bringing shutdowns back, think about the potential long-term health impacts we could face down the road.

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

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Zachary Cottam

Zachary Cottam

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