Coronavirus: Is lockdown leading to deaths from other causes?

The number of deaths caused by coronavirus continues to rise, but are people without Covid-19 dying because of the lockdown?

Mental health issues, a reluctance to ask for medical assistance, and not wanting to add more pressure on the health services could be reasons why people are not accessing the help they need.

The PA news agency spoke to some experts about what other deaths the coronavirus social distancing measures may be contributing to.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

– Could there be an increase in the number of people taking their own lives?

Tom Dening, professor of dementia research, faculty of medicine and health sciences at the University of Nottingham, said: “There doesn’t seem to be any data that so far suggests there is a wave of suicides.

“It is however quite possible that we will see an increase in suicides and self-harm over time, the longer the lockdown goes on.”

While Dr Dean Burnett, honorary research associate at Cardiff Psychology School, said the measures may be pushing people to their limits.

He said: “Most anxiety is caused by perhaps imagined threats and concerns, or potential dangers which may be, whereas now in the news they are telling us every day that there’s a genuine risk, just by leaving your house.”

He added that the feedback loop could lead to things becoming “intolerable” and could be when “things like suicide occur”.

Hospital stock
Some people are reluctant to attend Accident and Emergency departments (Ben Birchall/PA)

– Do people still feel able to attend hospital?

Prof Dening said there could be a number of reasons for what appears to be a sharp increase in deaths in the community that are not known to be due to Covid-19.

He explained: “These include people not feeling able to attend their GP surgeries, call an ambulance or attend A&E as they may have done in the past.

“Therefore, some serious conditions may present too late for effective treatment.

“Concern has been expressed by doctors working in children’s emergency care that they are not currently seeing the usual range of childhood emergencies.”

Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said some people have not been able to get appointments, or are told to arrange a virtual GP appointment and think “I am not going to bother”.

– What are people with potentially fatal conditions doing?

Prof Dening said: “Another possibility is that some people with serious conditions, like cancer or chronic kidney disease, are either unable or unwilling to attend hospital on the usual regular basis, so their treatment regimes may lapse.

“Managing conditions like unstable diabetes will be much harder remotely than with face-to-face attention.

“Or there may be people who would have been referred to specialists for assessment of potentially serious conditions, where there is now a delay in offering appointments or indeed clinics may simply have been cancelled.”

Prof Bauld explained that some people may have had a procedure that they need delayed, resulting in unintended consequences.

– Could the lockdown lifestyle itself be harming health?

Prof Dening said the lockdown itself may be breeding unhealthy behaviour.

He told PA: “Some people confined to their homes are likely to be drinking and smoking more, or eating less healthily, and this may also contribute to health problems, including accidents, around the home.”

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