In March 2020, when the coronavirus first hit U.S. soil, local governments began shutting down and limiting access to routine healthcare. And just as I predicted it would, this hysterical overreaction caused tragic and unintended outcomes. Including delays in detecting and treating deadly cancers, increases in serious diabetic and cardiac events, and more accidental and intentional drug overdose deaths (as I reported last week).
But now, we’re also learning that the widespread and ongoing shutdowns led to another huge, unforeseen tragedy…
Record-breaking spike in homicides in 2020
According to the data collected through September 2020, the country experienced a disturbing 21 percent increase in homicides compared to the same period in 2019. And once all the numbers are in, 2020 will probably hold the dubious honor of notching the largest-ever, one-year, national increase in homicide rates…by far. In fact, it’s been more than 50 years since the country saw an annual increase that exceeded 13 percent!
More specifically, large cities saw shocking increases. Between 2019 and 2020, homicides in:
- Los Angeles increased by 30 percent;
- New York increased by 40 percent; and
- Chicago increased by a staggering 50 percent!
But the increases weren’t limited to just the big urban centers...
Even smaller, midwestern cities like Omaha, Oklahoma City, and Memphis all experienced a greater than 50 percent increase in homicides during the same time period.
Apparently, this historic spike poses a bit of a mystery to some so-called experts, since other kinds of non-violent, property crimes saw steep decreases.
First, let’s use some plain logic here…property crimes diminished because people spent much more time working and relaxing at home in 2020. And routine burglaries typically skip occupied households. Plus, when shops are closed, there’s no shoplifting and fewer larcenies.
When it comes to getting answers about why murders increased in communities, they should consult with the real experts…
Ask the real homicide experts…the medical examiners
As a former medical examiner (ME) and forensic pathologist, I’m used to looking at grim statistics regarding “unnatural” deaths, including accidents, suicides, and homicides.
And based on my professional experience, there’s really no mystery behind why we saw such a huge spike in homicides across the country in 2020. In fact, I see five major reasons…
1.) Increases in domestic strife. As any ME knows, the vast majority of homicides are “domestic”—meaning the victim and the assailant knew each other well, as in a husband and wife. Indeed, the majority of homicide cases involve spouses and other family members. (In rare cases where the victim did not know the suspect at all [as in the case of the rare “serial killers”], it becomes much more difficult to solve.)
Sadly, it seems familiarity can breed contempt. Which is why police investigators always begin their homicide investigations looking at the victim’s spouse.
Furthermore, when people must remain cooped up together for months on end, unable to go out to a job or to social gatherings, it vastly increases the potential for domestic confrontations, which can lead to violence and homicide.
2.) Increases in excessive alcohol and drug use. MEs also know about the strong link among excessive alcohol and drug use, violence, and homicide. Indeed, in the typical homicide, forensic post-mortem investigations show that murderers (and their victims) often have dangerous levels of alcohol and/or drugs in their systems. And we also know the lockdowns and social isolation during the pandemic panic created circumstances for dangerous and excessive use of alcohol and drugs.
3.) Increases in isolation. During the pandemic, the continued lockdowns and disruptions to normal life left people (especially older adults) feeling isolated and confined for weeks and months on end.
In fact, according to a recent AARP Foundation report, the pandemic resulted in a dramatic rise in social isolation and loneliness. And two-thirds of adults reported a significant increase in their anxiety.
These feelings of isolation, hopeless, and psychological distress can trigger violence in some people. Especially if they begin taking an antidepressant or psychotropic drug.
4.) Increases in financial stress. Some of the increases in homicides must also relate to the effects of income loss due to the lockdowns. In fact, early data shows that murder rates rose when financial woes spiked—including during the early stages of the pandemic, after the first round of layoffs. And again, during early summer and fall, when financial assistance ran out.
5.) National and widespread social unrest. As we all witnessed on the national news, the entire country grappled with widespread social unrest in 2020 (passed off as “peaceful demonstrations” by some). At the same time, there was blatant, politically correct tolerance for all kinds of crimes as well as declines in law enforcement and basic respect for law and order. Indeed, on January 6, 2021, we saw one culmination of this crisis when the violence reached the U.S. Capitol building. But it still goes on in urban areas all across the country, even after the dramatic and drastic political changes. This kind of lawlessness creates a dangerous situation that cannot be permitted or tolerated.
How to move forward personally…and as a nation
In my view, there is one common solution to combatting all of these issues: Improve access to mind-body approaches like acupuncture, massage, and yoga in order to help improve mood and ease anxiety.
You can also strive to get out into Nature, find new ways to safely connect to people, take up a new hobby, or even get a new pet.
In fact, according to a paper in the Journal of Behavioural Economics for Policy, hugging and caring for pets during the pandemic helped people cope with the social isolation and loneliness. And previous studies show that caring for pets helps lower anxiety and stress, reduces blood pressure, increases physical activity, and enhances well-being.
(For the first time ever, many animals shelters reported having empty cages, during the pandemic.) It certainly helps pets when you work at home. And it’s better for you too!
In the end, you have many safe, effective, natural options for lowering stress and anxiety without resorting to violence or substance abuse. You can learn all about them in my books, Your Emotional Type and Overcoming Acute and Chronic Pain: Keys to Treatment Based on Your Emotional Type.
You can also learn about which non-drug treatments will work best for you or a loved one by taking this simple quiz.
P.S. I wrote about additional ways to improve your emotional (and physical) health in the October 2020 issue of my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures (“Back to the basics: Three simple tips for staying healthy long after the coronavirus pandemic subsides”). Not yet a subscriber? Click here to become one today!)
“Massive 1-Year Rise In Homicide Rates Collided With The Pandemic In 2020.” National Public Radio, 1/6/21. (npr.org/2021/01/06/953254623/massive-1-year-rise-in-homicide-rates-collided-with-the-pandemic-in-2020)
“2020 saw an unprecedented spike in homicides from big cities to small towns.” Washington Post, 12/30/20. (washingtonpost.com/national-security/reoord-spike-murders-2020/2020/12/30/1dcb057c-4ae5-11eb-839a-cf4ba7b7c48c_story.html)
“New Research Shows Furry Friends Are Emotional Lifesavers During The Pandemic.” Forbes, 12/4/2020. (forbes.com/sites/bryanrobinson/2020/12/04/new-research-shows-furry-friends-are-emotional-lifesavers-during-the-pandemic/?sh=7b3f57144eb6)
“Pets, touch, and COVID-19: health benefits from non-human touch through times of stress.” Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy, 2020; Vol. 4, COVID-19 Special Issue 2, 25-33.
“Pandemic Has Created Loneliness Epidemic, New Report Shows.” AARP, 10/8/2020. (aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2020/isolation-survey-coronavirus/)