Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

The negative effects of staying at home vs. COVID-19

with 3 comments

An interesting aspect of the various stay-at-home orders is the effect on the semi-prisoners, which can conceivably be quite dire.

Until recently, this has not been much of a concern to me, because I (a) am an extreme introvert, (b) was already foregoing the office in order to write my first book—apart from empty shelves in the stores, my life had originally seen a comparatively small practical effect.

Over the last week or so, I have seen a handful of complaints, by more extroverted individuals, along the lines of “if I don’t get out of the house soon, I will snap”* or “I could kill for human company”, and the cause of such complaints is likely to have a damaging effect on the physical and mental health of the complainers, and the more so the longer it continues. This even discounting the possibility that someone actually does snap in manner that results in death or injury.

*I have yet to see a “if I don’t get away from my family soon, I will snap”, but the sentiment is bound to exist; and in light of the known phenomenon of “cabin fever”, it might be quite common in a few weeks time.

To this, factors like lack of sunshine and exercise must be added. Even I have been hit here, as I have cut down on my walking considerably for about two months*, and a weight gain is visually observable (I have no “bathroom scale”). Moreover, I have gotten out of the habit, and know from experience that regaining it can take a while.

*Of which, admittedly, only about half is COVID-19 related: Prior to governmental restrictions, I had a long visit to Sweden, followed by a period of cold symptoms. Also see an excursion below on the COVID-19 portion.

Moreover, the last two-or-so weeks, there has been another period of considerable noise disturbances, comprising hours of poundings of various kinds per day—likely because one or several children who should be in school or in the park are stomping* around in their apartment instead. This also includes several days with loud hammering, which (with an eye on prior issues) makes me suspect that some party in the house is occasionally abusing his apartment for professional carpentry or such like—and that the current situation has moved more of his works from the workshop to the apartment. Not only are these disturbances a considerable annoyance during the day, but it has also very severely impacted my sleep, where I have lost, possibly, an average of two hours a day for at least two weeks. I am at a point, where I have concerns for both my long- and my short-term health. (And, obviously, the work on my book and my quality of life are both negatively affected.)

*Really, stomping.

Now, according to Wikipedia, there are currently 2,673 deaths in Germany attributed to COVID-19 (time of writing: April 12th).* Give these an average of five years of lost life, which seems on the high** side to me, and we have roughly 13 thousand years. Give a low estimate of 80 million people in Germany, and see how much each of these would need to loose to outweigh this time: in hours, we have roughly 13,000 * 365 * 24 / 80,000,000, or a roughly 1.4 hours. Has the negative side-effects of the counter-measures already more than exceeded an average of 1.4 hours of lost life? I would consider this pretty much a given.*** I would, indeed, consider 1.4 hours a ridiculously optimistic number.

*But note complications like under-
and over-reporting and potential delays in reporting.

**Note that deaths disproportionately hit the elderly and the already ill.

***Even when considering some potentially positive effects through less pollution and less commuter stress. Also remember that the overall negative effects will include factors like unnecessary bankruptcies, unemployment, etc., which in turn cause loss of life; as well as e.g. people who die prematurely because they were afraid of COVID-19 and failed to visit a hospital in time.

Of course, if we want to determine what set of counter-measures makes sense, we should not look at the number of deaths that remain but the number that has been, respectively, caused and prevented. Here, I suspect, it would be possible to write a doctoral thesis and still have nothing better than speculation; however, even if we grant that the current counter-measures have saved as much as a hundred thousand lives over a more moderate set of counter-measures, well, look at the numbers. This would be roughly one person in 800. If we apply the same high estimate of five years extra per saved person, this is a little more than two days saved per person of the overall population—but round up and call it three days. Firstly, I very, very strongly suspect that this is more than outweighed by the loss of life caused by the counter-measures; secondly, if there, strictly hypothetically, were no such loss of life at all, would those three days really be enough to justify the bankruptcies, the loss of quality of life, the restrictions in civic rights, etc.? We each have different preferences, but my answer is a resounding no.

Excursion on why I have cut down on walking:
I am not in a panic about catching COVID-19 during a walk or of being dragged into a cell for defying Frau Merkel, but my typical walks are negatively affected in other ways. Notably, I usually have one longer walk (10 km or more) a week, which usually consists of going from Barmen* to Elberfeld*, walking around a while there, having a cup of coffee or a bit to eat somewhere, reading a while in the library, and/or performing a planned purchase, and then walking back. Now, more-or-less everything is closed … Factor in the lower practical gain and the loss of motivation on top of the stay-at-home dictates, and I tend to stay at home.

*Subdivisions of Wuppertal. Elberfeld contains the main city center.

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Written by michaeleriksson

April 12, 2020 at 11:25 am

3 Responses

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  1. […] six months) and other unnecessary noise, the COVID-19 (-20?) lock-down brought a few months of renewed problems, with hours of disturbances per day. Disturbances, obviously, that did not just affect me during […]

  2. […] almost certainly been negative through weight-gain and damage caused by an idiot neighbor (cf. e.g. portions of an older text, which also address the general issue in a little more […]

  3. […] almost certainly been negative through weight-gain and damage caused by an idiot neighbor (cf. e.g. portions of an older text, which also address the general issue in a little more […]


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