A Closer Look at the Death Toll of 2020

A man wearing a protective face mask walks past an illustration of a virus, in Oldham, England, August 3, 2020. (Phil Noble/Reuters)
The virus — and our response to it — claimed many lives. A new study examines last year’s ‘deaths of despair.’

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T he year 2020 is, mercifully, behind us. But far into the future we will be asking ourselves what the hell just happened.

One of the most important questions, of course, is what we accomplished through our reaction to COVID-19. As individuals, we retreated to our homes to protect ourselves and stop the spread of the virus. Governments mandated lockdowns, masks, social distancing, and more. The economy predictably cratered. All this certainly had consequences for our mental and physical health, our substance abuse, our kids’ education. Was the cure worse than the disease?

A new study from Casey B. Mulligan, who recently served