How might the increased number of deaths in the world due to Covid-19 affect the people who are alive?

Mental Health

A: The ripples caused by Covid-19 deaths affect everyone.

Losing a family member or loved one, particularly a member of your immediate family, can drastically impact the physical and mental wellbeing of survivors within that network and their communities.

A recent study estimated that every individual who loses their life as a result of Covid-19 impacts NINE immediate family members on average. Immediate family members included spouses, siblings, children, and grandparents.  Based on this model, the nearly 150,000 Covid-19 deaths in the US leave more than 1.3 million immediate family members grieving the loss of a loved one. The death of one individual has a lasting impact on family units and society at large, including the following:

Intergenerational Relationships – Relationships across generations are common within families, with significant benefits for all involved including decreased loneliness, increased meaning and purpose, and the sharing of tradition and wisdom. The loss of older adults in particular from intergenerational families could leave a generation of children with far fewer grandparents, a significant loss to individual families and communities.

Bereavement – Each person experiences the death of a loved one differently, but processing those emotions is essential in minimizing long term impacts on health and wellness. Grief following the loss of a loved one is normal. Sometimes, grief responses can become complicated lasting more than 6 months with negative impacts on daily activities and mental health. Covid-19 presents challenges to traditional mourning such as funerals and gatherings of loved ones that could have significant effects on mental health for the long term. This is especially concerning for younger children experiencing the loss of parents and/or grandparents and older adults who may be losing multiple close contacts at the same time, such as spouses and siblings.

Economic Impacts – Covid-19 deaths within family units can jeopardize the financial stability of other members of the unit. Family members commonly pool their resources, including time, caregiving, housing and/or finances to benefit the group. Death of one member of the family alters these dynamics with unknown downstream consequences at the societal level.

Disparity – Covid-19 has disproportionately affected communities of color in large part due to structural racism. The increased frequency of deaths for black communities and areas with high rates of transmission can magnify the traumatic effects of Covid-19 deaths.

As we all try to live in this complex Covid world, let’s take a minute to remember the lives lost, celebrate their contributions and memories, and stand beside grieving loved ones. In addition, mask up and stay SMART.

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