by urban planner
Urban planning is a social science. Social scientists have been studying the effects of unemployment for decades. The stat I quoted came first from studies in the 80s but other studies since and around the world confirm these figures more or less. Google or DuckDuckGo unemployment mortality rates, wade through the current tsunami of covid coverage and lots of info shows up below the distractions. The Robert Kennedy Jr interview referenced all over the posts here also mentions these figures. I think he quotes 37k dead for every percentage point rise in unemployment. Then he references a real unemployment rate of (I think) 35%. Official stats right now are closer to 20%, but maybe he’s future casting or counting underemployed, gig workers who are ineligible, etc. Either way, the math utterly dwarfs Covid.
Unemployment has many direct and indirect effects. They include the ones you mention – the deaths from despair (suicide, higher overdose rates, domestic violence, high levels of stress which promotes sickness, the immune suppression and soul crushing pain of depression and loneliness) as well as things like lack of health care, poor nutrition because healthful food costs more, less sanitary and safe living conditions and run on, cascading effects throughout people’s lives like social ostracism and disconnects from society. These things are indirectly counted in mortality figures and play out over a lot more time. You can already see it at work in the US’s declining life expectancy. Poverty is insidious and right under the surface, or it was.
Covid will circle the globe many times and kill people, a lot of people, possibly as a permanent feature of our lives henceforth. But unemployment and its knock on effects will do far more damage. If perhaps this were a plandemic, just like with the Everything Bubble, Covid is just the catalyst. Covid can mask a lot of Wall Street crime. But the bigger threat is the depopulation bomb that was planted under Main Street and in the suburban cul-de-sacs and everywhere else people weren’t already subsistence living. Or, maybe it’s just a random meteor crashing into a crumbling and brittle economic and social system. The effect is the same.
My masters and career are in urban planning. My undergrad was biology. I’ve come to view this whole thing as a massive ecological phase shift wherein everything suddenly, seemingly inexplicably (though obvious in hindsight) changes radically. Some species or individuals are primed to thrive (think urban wildlife like raccoons, squirrels, etc) while some perish. Life goes on, but differently than before. Mount Saint Helens blows up, casts ash for thousands of miles and is hugely different. That’s how I see this.
Planners by our nature take the long view. My thinking is that this is going to get ugly for a long time and effect everyone profoundly. We have to find a way to salvage as much good for as many people as possible because they are us. And if we fail, well, in the super long view, something will work out. After all, we’re the mutants that survived the dinosaur apocalypse.