topics Policy Research Effects of a COVID-Induced Economic Recession (COVID-19 Impact Series, Volume 1)

Effects of a COVID-Induced Economic Recession (COVID-19 Impact Series, Volume 1)

In April 2020, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) issued the first in a series of white papers analyzing the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic which focused on how an economic recession could increase rates of mental health and substance use disorders (MHSUD) and result in deaths from suicide and substance overdoses.

Our intent is two-fold: to provide sound guidance and also to bring other experts and thought leaders into the discussion to refine the guidance and improve the estimates available to the field. In Texas, MMHPI’s models project that – absent an increase in preparedness to detect and treat depression and addiction – every five percentage point annual increase in the unemployment rate could result in 300 additional lives lost to suicide each year and 425 additional lives lost to drug overdoses. In 2018, over 3,800 Texans died from suicide and over 7,000 died from substance-related deaths.

Nationally, the MMHPI models project that for every five percent increase in the unemployment rate, an unemployment rate on par with the 2007-2009 recession, over a year we could lose 4,000 more Americans to suicide and 4,800 to overdose, as well as 600,000 more people who will suffer from addiction more broadly. A deeper economic recession similar in magnitude to the Great Depression could lead to 18,000 more lost to suicide and more than 22,000 to drug overdose.

The white paper also notes that rates of depression and addiction will be many times higher than the number of deaths. Furthermore, rates of mental illness more broadly are likely to increase over time, given that most mental health impacts of trauma manifest 60 to 90 days following exposure to traumatic events, though the sustained and unpredictable length of the COVID-19 pandemic stressors may change that pattern. These effects can continue to significantly manifest for years, as seen following Hurricane Harvey.

An Appendix to Volume 1 updates our original white paper on the effects of a COVID-19 recession with state-level projections of increases in illicit substance use as well as additional lives lost to suicide and overdose.

View or download the full white paper Projected COVID-19 MHSUD Impacts, Volume 1: Effects of COVID-Induced Economic Recession.