Lockdowns are not more harmful to health than COVID-19, according to a commentary published Tuesday.
In a commentary published in the journal BMJ Global Health, researchers evaluated evidence to examine whether government interventions such as lockdowns led to negative health consequence.
"The fact that there are no locations anywhere in the world where a lockdown without large numbers of COVID-19 cases was associated with large numbers of excess deaths shows quite convincingly that the interventions themselves cannot be worse than large COVID-19 outbreaks, at least in the short term," the researchers wrote.
Researchers examined the impacts of lockdowns on short-term mortality, adherence to routine health services and mental health.
The commentary looked at an international dataset of all-cause mortality data from 94 nations.
Using the data, the researchers found that countries like New Zealand and Australia, which imposed heavier lockdowns over the course of the pandemic, experienced no excess mortality last year.
On the other hand, places like Brazil, Sweden and certain parts of the United States with few COVID-19 restrictions had large numbers of excess deaths.
The researchers did note, however, that excess mortality data did not refute the position that lockdowns have caused some harm. They said that the United Kingdom imposed several national lockdowns, but still had negative impacts.
Researchers couldn’t directly determine the impact of lockdowns on adherence to health services, like routine doctor’s appointments.
While there was “plausible impact” on adherence to health services caused by lockdowns, researchers said this could also be due to health care providers being overwhelmed due to COVID-19, or patients’ fear of contracting COVID-19 in health care settings.
The commentary also said addressing the pandemic’s impact on mental health is more complex than the impacts of social isolation. Mental health outcomes could be due to government lockdowns, but also to the impacts of the pandemic itself.
“Missing school clearly affects children’s mental health, but so does losing a loved one to COVID-19," the researchers said.
The commentary comes as the world grapples with the spread of coronavirus variants. The U.S. in particular has seen a surge in cases of the delta variant in all 50 states, especially in unvaccinated pockets of the country, with some localities reimposing mask mandates no matter vaccination status.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyThousands descend on DC for anti-vaccine mandate rally New CDC studies show boosters provide strong protection from omicron variant The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks MORE said last week that the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. is becoming a "pandemic of the unvaccinated." A majority of coronavirus-related deaths have been among patients that have not received the shot.