These astounding new figures offer a painful reminder of the perennial perils of tunnel-vision policymaking.
Most young people are at little risk of dying from the coronavirus. But a new Pew Research survey shows that they are disproportionately bearing the consequences of heavy-handed pandemic lockdowns and isolating government restrictions.
Pew finds that an astounding 32 percent of young adults aged 18 to 29 report experiencing high levels of “psychological distress.” An additional 31 percent say they’ve experienced a medium level. Notably, women and lower-income are even more likely to have experienced serious psychological distress within this young subgroup.
Meanwhile, 45 percent of respondents under 30 reported being “nervous, anxious or on edge” at least “occasionally or a moderate amount of time.”
What’s the root cause of this widespread distress among young adults? Well, reports often attribute it to “the pandemic” or “COVID,” but in actuality, it’s largely attributable to the lockdown policies and government restrictions, not the virus itself.
The death rate for members of this age group, approximately 18 to 29, is between .003% and .013%—a tiny sub-fraction of a percentage. So, it’s not the virus itself or fear of it, but primarily the deprivation of their lives and livelihoods that is dragging young Americans down.
“Young people have been a particular group of concern during the pandemic for mental health professionals, and young adults stand out in the current survey for exhibiting higher levels of psychological distress than other age groups,” Pew explains. “The shutdowns have disrupted job opportunities, college experiences, and the mixing and mingling that marks the transition to adulthood.”
The only conclusion left to draw is that young people are having life-threatening psychological distress and trauma inflicted on them by overzealous government lockdown policies.
These policies were implemented with a tunnel-vision focus on containing COVID-19, something lawmakers have proven unable to do. Government officials enacted unprecedented restrictions depriving people of their livelihoods, shutting down schools, and isolating people from their communities and families—failing to account for the myriad unintended consequences and second-order impacts that were always sure to ensue.
The arrogance of our elected officials will be remembered as the root reason our COVID outcomes were so disastrous. They failed to heed one of the most basic lessons of economics: disastrous results await policymakers who lack the humility to see the limits of their ability to control society top-down.
“Lawmakers should be keenly aware that every human action has both intended and unintended consequences,” FEE’s Ant Davies and James Harrigan explain. “Human beings react to every rule, regulation, and order governments impose, and their reactions result in outcomes that can be quite different than the outcomes lawmakers intended.”
“So while there is a place for legislation, that place should be one defined by both great caution and tremendous humility,” they conclude.
When it comes to unprecedented lockdown measures, our policymakers have been anything but humble. Lawmakers and public health experts foolishly thought they could solve everything with top-down mandates and centralized control—and the collective psyche of an entire generation of young people will be forever scarred as a result.
Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is a libertarian-conservative journalist and Opinion Editor at the Foundation for Economic Education.
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