Life Under Lockdown

How have shutdowns affected economies and citizens?
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In May, a chef overlooks a deserted street in Rome's historic center near Piazza Navona.


WHAT MEASURES HAVE been most effective in controlling the spread of COVID-19? Scholars at two European universities have investigated which national strategies have effectively combated the disease and what lasting effects they have had on the economy and well-being of residents.


New research from the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University in the Netherlands suggests that a lockdown not only has saved lives, but could pour significant money into the economy over the long term.

RSM’s Dion Bongaerts, Francesco Mazzola, and Wolf Wagner studied what happened in various municipalities in Italy in March when 17 percent of the economy was shut down because of the pandemic. Charting the daily average COVID-19 death rate per 100,000 people, they found that this action saved more than 9,000 lives over a 23-day shutdown.

According to their analysis, about ten days after the shutdown, mortality rates started to decline, and the decline was more pronounced in municipalities that had higher concentrations of affected businesses. When cities that serve as business hubs were essentially closed, neighboring cities also saw declines in mortality rates that were comparable to the effect of shutdowns in their own municipalities. Shutting down the retail sector appeared to contribute the most to the decline in mortality rates.

But the closure, they say, saved money as well as lives. The researchers calculated that the first shutdown could be valued at saving more than €9 billion (about US$10.6 billion). This assumed that those who died from the coronavirus would have lived another 13 years if they hadn’t contracted the disease and that the value of each statistical life-year was about €80,000 a year.

“Closed for Business” is a discussion paper for the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London.


While an economic lockdown can save lives, it creates conditions where some people thrive and some people wither, according to new a survey from EM Lyon Business School in France. The researchers are from the school’s Lifestyle Research Center and include Joonas Rokka, Karine Raïes, and Massimo Airoldi, all professors of marketing; Lotta Harju, a professor of organizational behavior; Maira Lopes, a postdoctoral researcher; and Vincent Dewaguet, a research assistant.

The researchers have extensively studied how the COVID-19 lockdown has affected people’s lifestyles, circumstances, and behaviors. Their data, which was gathered near the end of May, comes from a survey of more than 1,000 respondents in France and the U.K. The study looked at areas of everyday life that were likely to be affected by the lockdown, including physical and psychological well-being, work/study situations, financial situations, eating habits, social habits, exercise habits, and media consumption. When determining well-being during lockdown, researchers also considered characteristics such as gender, age, marital status, education/professional background, household size, and income.

They identified five profiles of well-being based on psychological factors that measured the frequency of both strong positive emotions such as joy, happiness, and contentment, and negative ones such as fear, anger, and sadness.


Those who were thriving represented 21 percent of respondents across both countries. The typical respondents who fit this category were married women over the age of 45 who were living with other people, had a generally high net income, experienced major increases in physical health, and felt that the crisis had no impact on their household finances.

Those who were oscillating between positive and negative emotions represented 20 percent of respondents. They tended to be individuals with high net incomes who were living with other people, showed only slight changes in physical health, and saw little or no impact on their finances.

About 18 percent of respondents were classified as stable. Most of these reported virtually no strong positive or negative emotions during the lockdown and saw little change in their health or financial status, which was defined as average.

On the other hand, 28 percent of the respondents were withering as they experienced higher rates of negativity during the lockdown. Not only did they see slight decreases in physical health, they had low net incomes that were significantly affected by the lockdown.

About 12 percent of respondents were apathetic, experiencing frequent and strong negative emotions during the shutdown. They were more likely to be single males between the ages of 18 and 25 who lived alone and had low net incomes. Due to the pandemic, they experienced strong decreases in physical health and very significant impacts on household finances.

“The change in physical health was most dramatic for those who were less thriving psychologically,” notes Rokka. The researchers believe that well-being studies will become increasingly important if future breakouts of the virus cause additional shutdowns around the world.