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This Wins for Most Depressing Headline of 2020

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted May 6, 2020

Before I get to that, can you guess what’s up more than 1,000% in three months? And it’s specifically up since the nationwide lockdown in the United States started, meaning there’s a direct correlation.

Here are some clues:

It’s not a stock.

It’s not a precious metal, like gold or silver.

It’s not a cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency.

And it’s not even the money supply, which has skyrocketed since March.

So what’s up 1,000% in the last three months? Calls and texts to mental health hotlines.

It’s true. And to me, it’s not surprising at all. I’ve been talking about it since the beginning of this crisis.

And unfortunately, it’s come true.

You see, recent data shows a surge in depression, anxiety, suicides, and alcohol and drug abuse... all hitting the U.S. like a tsunami. Anti-anxiety prescriptions are up 34% since late-February. 

According to the Washington Post:

Nearly half of all Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to polls. A federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress registered a more than 1,000% increase in April compared with the same time last year. Roughly 20,000 people texted that hotline, run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, last month.

With this stress, Americans are turning to alcohol and drugs in record numbers.

Alcoholic beverage sales increased by 55% in March, when states urged residents to stay home, compared to sales in 2019. While the increase in sales could represent stockpiling for the sheltered weeks ahead, it also signaled the potential for alcohol abuse.

In states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, New York, etc., there’s been a surge in opioid overdoses and deaths.

Suicides have also spiked, with some states reporting more suicides and drug overdoses than COVID-19 deaths. And let’s be clear about this: America was already fighting an opioid and suicide epidemic well before this virus landed on our shores.

I bring this up because I’ve been in a running debate with colleagues and people I don’t even know about opening up the economy.
They level the typical liberal shots at me and others who agree with me: 

“You’re putting profits over people.”

“You’re willing to risk lives for the economy.”

Actually I’m not. I’m looking at the math and historical events for guidance.

To put it bluntly: 30 million Americans out of work isn’t a solution. It’s a highway to hell. 

I’m in the camp that thinks we need to get the economy moving lest you are ready to face much bigger problems in the months and years ahead. 

The economy promotes life. The economy enhances life. The economy is life!

The opposite is also true. When the economy is in the crapper and unemployment is sky-high, premature deaths rise dramatically.
And there’s science to back this up. 

In 2015, two Princeton professors released their conclusions to research they conducted looking for a direct link between deaths from suicides, alcohol abuse, and opioid overdoses and the upticks in unemployment and a downturn in economic opportunities.

They conducted this research because they noticed that the U.S. was experiencing a drug and suicide epidemic in certain parts of the nation, even though, overall, America’s economy was pretty good.

What they discovered was that parts of the nation were in economic depressions and unemployment was very high. These were parts of the nation where manufacturing industries and good-paying jobs had disappeared, shipped overseas.

With the lack of economic opportunities, people in these parts of the U.S. started turning to opioids and alcohol in shocking numbers. Suicides spiked, too.

The city of Huntington, West Virginia, for example, had seen 20% of its entire population addicted to opioids. Twenty percent!!!

The two Princeton professors wrapped their thesis in the sobering phrase “Deaths of Despair.”

Simply put, when people are unemployed indefinitely and don’t see any economic opportunities, substance abuse and suicides rise exponentially. 

Again, we have 30 million Americans out of work. And that number is growing.

A couple of years after the Princeton study, the National Bureau of Economic Research released a paper that put the country's opioid crisis under a microscope. Its authors, a group of researchers from Indiana University and the University of Virginia, found evidence that declining economic fundamentals walk hand in hand with increasing drug abuse and deaths.

According to the report:

We find that as the county unemployment rate increases by 1 percentage point, the opioid death rate [per 100,000 people] rises by 0.19 (3.6 percent) and the [emergency department] visit rate for opioid overdoses [per 100,000 people] increases by 0.95 (7.0 percent).

Those results are even more stark at the state level. A one-percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate across an entire state was found to coincide with a 0.33-percentage-point jump in the area's opioid death rate. Per the report, that's "over one and a half times the size of the county-level estimates, corresponding to growth of 6.2 percent."

In an average year, there are 80,000 deaths due to alcohol abuse and 50,000 suicides in the U.S, alone. I can almost guarantee those numbers are going to increase dramatically if something isn’t done right now.

On the bright side, last weekend, Americans went out to enjoy the beautiful spring weather. Americans want to live life again. Americans want to get back to work and go on vacations as summer is just weeks away.

States are beginning to open up, much to the chagrin of the professional catastrophists. And that brings me to a headline I saw on Yahoo yesterday that had me shaking my head in disbelief.

Published by The New York Times, reposted by Yahoo… if it bleeds, it leads:

"Coronavirus in the U.S.: An Unrelenting Crush of Cases and Deaths."

And here are some quotes pulled from that article: "the daily onslaught of death," "signs of progress obscure a darker reality," "firm grip of a pandemic with little hope of release," "a steady, unrelenting march of deaths and infections," "an ominous harbinger of what a full reopening of the economy will bring." 

My advice to you: Turn off the news. It’s poison. But continue reading Wealth Daily and its sisters publications. Our stuff won’t have you contemplating swinging from a rafter like The New York Times will.

We will show you the way. 

Brian Hicks Signature

Brian Hicks

Brian is a founding member and President of Angel Publishing and investment director for the income and dividend newsletter The Wealth Advisory. He writes about general investment strategies for Wealth Daily and Energy & Capital. Known as the "original bull on America," Brian is also the author of the 2008 book, Profit from the Peak: The End of Oil and the Greatest Investment Event of the Century. In addition to writing about the economy, investments and politics, Brian is also a frequent guest on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox and countless radio shows. For more on Brian, take a look at his editor's page.

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