Last year, as then-President Donald Trump railed against Covid-19 lockdowns and called on states to reopen their economies, he claimed the shutdowns would lead to a spike in suicides: “You’re going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression. You’re going to lose people. You’re going to have suicides by the thousands.”
But new data suggests that the number of suicides actually decreased in the US last year. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, suicides totaled fewer than 45,000 in 2020, down from about 47,500 in 2019 and more than 48,000 in 2018.
So far, this seems to be true globally. England saw no increase in suicides in the aftermath of lockdowns, Louis Appleby, a researcher on suicide and self-harm at the University of Manchester, wrote for the medical journal BMJ. The same seems to be true in other nations, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, and Sweden, based on data for the first few months of lockdowns around the globe.
“Our conclusions at this stage, however, should be cautious. These are early findings and may change,” Appleby wrote in BMJ. “Beneath the overall numbers there may be variations between demographic groups or geographical areas. After all, the impact of covid-19 itself has not been uniform across communities.”
Still, the news overall seems good.