A Scientific American article is circulating in response to the widespread criticism surrounding the CDC’s claims of COVID-19 deaths. The article aims to convince Americans that COVID-19 death counts have not been inflated but acknowledges that case counts of COVID-19 “are a kind of quick and dirty accounting, says Shawna Webster, executive director of the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems… no one has time to double-check the information or look for missing lab tests.”
In response to the assertion that 94% of people who reportedly die from COVID-19 have at least one underlying medical condition, the article goes on to admit that, yes, in just “6 percent of the coronavirus mortality cases… COVID-19 was the only condition listed on the death certificate,” but theorizes that these may have been incomplete records because death certificates themselves are complicated and reporting is not always uniform.
The real crux of the article, and perhaps the most convincing statistic of all, is that despite the muddy details, there is a way to spin the numbers so that overall deaths in America appear to have increased and that some 200,000+ additional Americans have died this year when compared with prior years. The article itself qualifies this estimate: “The numbers in Woolf’s study come from provisional death data, the kind that [has not been fact-checked] for miscoding or other issues, so it comes with some degree of imprecision.”
In fact, a Johns Hopkins researcher has spoken out against this estimate and published a study finding that despite an increase in COVID cases, “the percentages of deaths among all age groups remain relatively the same.” Pulling from the CDC’s own data, the Johns Hopkins researcher explained, “The reason we have a higher number of reported COVID-19 deaths among older individuals than younger individuals is simply because every day in the U.S. older individuals die in higher numbers than younger individuals.“ As the analysis gained traction and the numbers refuting an increase in deaths circulated more widely, Johns Hopkins yanked the study – and then Google yanked evidence of the study having ever existed at all. (At the time of this post, a Google search no longer returns any evidence whatsoever of the Johns Hopkins study having ever existed or retracted, but you can still access archived pages of proof of the study, data, and full analysis using an alternative search engine like duckduckgo.com).
Even so, what if there really are additional deaths this year? It seems worth exploring. Mysteriously, the Scientific American article mentions that more than a third of these additional deaths could not actually be traced or related to COVID-19 in any way, but nonetheless they are additional deaths. That’s food for thought.
Why the uptick in deaths during 2020? Could it be that COVID-19 is really the greatest danger to humanity of our modern times?
Imagine for a moment that the American people were under greater stress than usual beginning sometime in March of 2020. Did you know that stress itself significantly increases a person’s rate of death?
That applies to even minor stress, which increases one’s chances of dying from anything – cancer, heart disease, accidents, injuries. Even the common cold is more likely to kill you if you’re stressed and anxious. Study after study finds that “the greater the level of psychological distress, the more likely a person was to die...” According to a study published in the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal, “even people displaying minor symptoms of psychological distress were found to have a 20 percent increased risk of dying…”
On the other end of the spectrum, what about “those with the highest levels of psychological distress”? Their chances of dying jumped 41 percent. Still other studies have found the increase in death rate resulting from stress to be as high as 60 percent.
It’s no stretch to imagine that the American people have been mildly stressed since March of 2020 whether due to genuine fear of COVID, concerns about the economy, real job loss, lack of access to child care, relational stress, sudden shifts in lifestyle, and more.
Based on the stress alone that American people have experienced since March, we should expect to see an increase in American deaths this year of at least twenty percent across the population. That’s assuming that Americans are only experiencing very “minor” stress from COVID.
If Americans are “mildly” stressed about COVID, we would expect the increase in deaths to be far greater than 200,000.
So if that 200,000 is easily explained away by an increase in stress, where are all the COVID-19 deaths we’ve been told to fear?
. . .
The actionable message here is this: Don’t stress. But how?
A 2012 NPR article “Best To Not Sweat The Small Stuff, Because It Could Kill You” reported on a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Experimental Gerontology finding that “the most stressed-out people have the highest risk of premature death.” Helpfully, the article goes on to provide ways to combat this effect:
- Exercise for 30 minutes per day. “When it comes to fighting stress,” Waldinger says, that’s enough. “More than 30 minutes a day is not necessary — you don’t get any boost. So if you think just in terms of stress relief and antidepressant effect, 30 minutes is enough. Note: This may be difficult if your fitness studio has been closed or if you’re confined to a small room in a nursing home or a studio apartment in a major city. Don’t let that stop you. Get outside, go for a walk; exercise in your room if you must.
- Meditate or pray. Note: This may be difficult if your yoga studios, temples, synagogues and churches have been shut down. But take time to meditate by yourself or pray with your family.
- Breathe deeply. “Breathing may be the simplest and most immediate fix,” says Carolyn Aldwin who directs the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University and led the study. Most importantly, she says, avoid breathing “rapidly and shallowly.” Note: Deep breathing of fresh air is not possible if you’re wearing a mask. For your health, seek out ways to breath fresh air and breathe it deeply.
- Finally, drink less alcohol, which disturbs sleep and acts as a depressant. Note: Bars are the one business most states have allowed to remain open and despite the negative health effects, alcohol sales have skyrocketed. In fact, “Nielsen reported a 54% increase in national sales of alcohol for the week ending March 21, 2020, compared with 1 year before; online sales increased 262% from 2019.” That’s an article for another day – because even light drinking increases your chance of premature death by twenty percent – but don’t fall into the trap and let government policies determine how you relieve stress, or whether you die from it.
Now that you’re armed with the facts, that 200,000 number probably sounds low. Given the job losses, closures of schools, food shortages, and rampant anxiety and depression of 2020, we would expect to see a much greater death toll due to stress alone than a mere 200 thousand additional deaths out of a population 328+ million. There’s at least one solution to protect your health: Fear not. COVID-19 deaths can be chalked up to a sort of reverse placebo effect. Perhaps the only thing to fear really is fear itself.
Wellness & Equality hopes that this article relieved some of your COVID-19 stress and anxiety.