Mental health toll of lockdown rises to $13 billion

The hit to wellbeing in Australia caused by the rise in mental illness during COVID-19 lockdowns has so far cost more than $13 billion, according to new modeling shows.

A special edition of Herald/Age-The Lateral Economic Wellbeing Index estimates that the pandemic-induced lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 led to a 6 percentage point increase in mental illness.

New modeling has shed light on the unseen damage of the pandemic.Credit:

Just over half of the $13.3 billion in welfare costs attributed to this spike were felt in Victoria due to its multiple lockdowns. Almost a third of that cost was felt in New South Wales.

School standards have also been affected. The report says the latest NAPLAN results show a 0.4% drop in teaching quality in 2021, likely due to home-based learning and other COVID-19-related disruptions. As a result, school-aged children will forego $1.73 billion in human capital development, a measure of collective capabilities and know-how, according to the modeling. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are likely to be the most affected.

The index, published since 2011, puts a dollar figure on Australia’s collective well-being by adjusting gross domestic product to account for changes in education and skills, health, working life, inequality and the environment. By including both economic and non-economic aspects of human well-being, the index provides a better measure of national progress than traditional economic indicators. The latest edition also modeled the well-being costs of some specific pandemic disruptions, including the mental health effects of lockdowns and the quality of education.

The index’s author, economist Nicholas Gruen, said the findings shed light on some hidden costs of the pandemic and help deepen our understanding of how it has affected the community.

“The sheer magnitude of these numbers shows how important it is to look at this crisis from multiple angles,” he said.

The overall index results show that national well-being fell sharply after the start of the pandemic in 2020. There was a recovery in the first half of 2021 but since then the upheaval caused by the Delta variant of COVID- 19 pushed the index down again.

Comments are closed.