The question of how many people have died because of the pandemic in the United States is difficult to answer. From the start, the CDC has admitted that their numbers are bound to underreport the mortality rates. Not everyone who has died from the virus actually had a COVID test done.
This has led people to look to other statistics. One of the most commonly cited statistics is the excess deaths in the United States over the past two years. Excess death refers to any death above the expected mortality rate – or how many more people died than would have in a normal time period.
There are other, less direct, indicators of excess deaths we can look at. Recently, J Scott Davison, the CEO of Indianapolis-based insurance company OneAmerica provided a new, disturbing perspective. Since his company sells life insurance, he has statistics on how many more payouts they have had to do than they would have expected.
Davison contends that their figures show a 40% increase in deaths of people of working age. That is, people between the ages of 18 and 65. According to the baselines used in the insurance industry, a one-in-two-hundred-year catastrophe would lead to an increase of just 10% in this age group.
These figures, and COVID deaths as a whole, are not comfortable topics of conversation. But the reality is that such a major increase in mortality affects a population in a number of ways. And as is evident from the fact that this new figure comes from an insurance company CEO, industry often sheds the brightest light on human experience. In a country like America, where capitalism is the guiding principle behind almost everything, this is unsurprising.
By looking at the industries impacted by the increase in mortality due to the pandemic, we can get a clearer vision of how society is changing.
Insurance Companies Raising Premiums
Let’s start with the obvious, considering the source of these numbers. Insurance. The insurance industry has a peculiar position in the makeup of a society. The industry profits on the accurate prediction of data that reflects the entire life cycle. These predictions are constantly being updated, so as to maintain profits even in unprecedented times.
As such, the insurance industry is responding to the increased number of claims by raising premiums. If this sounds opportunistic, it is because you do not work in insurance. Insurance companies cost premiums according to risk. There is no humanity in this process, as the cold methodology of the processing of statistics keeps the industry running.
Life insurance is not the only type of insurance where premiums are being raised. The risk of ill health is increasing as well, and not just because of the short-term effects of the virus. So-called “long COVID” is leading to health issues months down the line. Weakened immune systems are leaving people vulnerable to major health conditions, disability, and death.
As such, we can expect health insurance and disability insurance policies to be priced at higher rates.
It is also worthwhile to mention that the insurance industry has had to weather the storm of COVID, too, paying out many policies that were expected to bring in income for decades to come. Furthermore, insurance companies profit by investing premiums. Towards the beginning of the pandemic, the Fed brought interest rates down to record lows for long-term loans/investments. This, among other investments providing limited returns, has dealt a major blow to the pockets of the biggest companies.
So, while the level of risk calculated is one factor that will influence premiums, the recovery of the insurance companies involved is another. This is one more way in which the recovery of America’s economy impacts individual Americans. Even if you are not investing money, borrowing money, or working for a massive corporation, the very price of your insurance premiums reflects economic health.
Online Will Makers Crush Legal Fees
Sticking with the financial implications of mortality, more young people than ever are concerned about what will happen to their families when they die. Life insurance is one way of providing for them, but it is not the be-all-and-end-all. Rather, plans need to be made for the person’s estate after their death. This includes designating an executor of the estate, apportioning inheritances, funeral plans, and more.
In the past, two considerations have kept younger Americans from writing wills. One is the belief that they can put it off until some later date. The other is the expected cost of a will.
The pandemic has put paid to the former for many people (although a large minority still seems to believe they are immune to death). But the latter is a real issue. Paying a lawyer for an hour-long consultation just to write a will is an expense that people living month-to-month cannot afford. It is a very real justification for putting it off until it is “really” necessary.
The thing is, the legal industry is changing, whether legal professionals want to accept it or not. While layers still charge exorbitant fees, that does not have to deter you from making a will. In fact, you can cut lawyers out of the equation altogether. Many legal documents, including wills, are incredibly simple. They require some legalese to close out loopholes, but except in particularly complicated circumstances, an algorithm can do the job.
In 2022, you can use an online will maker for a small fee. Online will makers are essentially templates that ask you to input what you want to happen after you die in specific, easy-to-understand ways. They then compile your input into a will which you can look over and sign in front of a witness. This is legally binding.
The best online will makers offer the opportunity for a lawyer to look over your will, at a fee which is still far lower than what you would pay to see a lawyer. Being prepared for your own death is incredibly important in the world we live in. Even if you are not leaving a huge estate behind, writing a will ensures your family is taken care of at one of the toughest times in their lives.
Online Therapy Has Been Normalized
Another industry that is being impacted by our increased awareness of mortality is the therapy industry. For decades, the stigma surrounding therapy has been gradually slipping away. However, until online therapy became popular, many people were still terrified of being seen at a therapist’s office.
Online therapy sites made lessening the stigma of therapy into one of their mission statements. This was even before the pandemic turned video chats into the only way of seeing a therapist for long stretches of time. Now that online therapy has been normalized, the stigma is not as strong as it once was.
It helps that everyone is aware of how tough the last couple of years have been. We have all experienced collective trauma, and no one can believably say that they haven’t been affected. People who would have never sought out help for mental health have changed their perspectives of the industry.
Many communities still cling to a philosophy that personal responsibility requires you to do everything yourself. They still see asking for help as a weakness. This is especially true for older generations and men. Older generations see themselves as hardened by life, while men of all ages have been told never to show weakness.
But even among these demographics, the sheer accessibility of therapy – without anyone in your life ever needing to know you have seen a therapist – people are letting go of that need for control. More people are speaking about therapy as well, which helps normalize it even for those who will never admit publicly that they have seen a therapist.
Even during normal times, therapy is hugely beneficial for many people who think they don’t need it. The presence of mortality as a driving factor in our current lives has made it all the more important. Every human is geared to fight for survival, which is why mortality is so terrifying and disturbing to us. There are no easy answers, but therapy can help us live with the questions.
The online therapy industry is therefore set to make a lot of money from the impact of the pandemic. The good news is that, as is the case when capitalism is done properly, their success benefits us all.
There is no way of knowing how the death statistics will change over the coming years. We hope that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, but nothing is guaranteed. Humans around the world have been changed forever. We will continue to see this in every aspect of society, including industry, socioeconomics, politics, and more.