Rebekah Scanlan, Lifestyle Editor at news.com.au, tweeted last week after Sydney announced it had extended its lockdown another four weeks:
“I’m really mad. Lockdown extended another 4 weeks. This is a joke. We’re being robbed of our lives, time we will never get back. As a 35yo single woman who would like to have a family one day, these months dictate whether or not that can happen for me. Mad is an understatement.”
Scanlan hits on a crucial aspect of the COVID-19 response that goes totally overlooked: lockdowns are killing young women’s ability to date and form families.
The consequences of this are far-reaching. By preventing mingling and dating, lockdowns ultimately affect whether young people will meet and get married, how many children they’ll have, and perhaps whether they’ll be able to have any children at all.
Lockdowns Ignore the Reality of Female Fertility and Social Isolation
Young women have a window during which it’s least risky and easiest for them to get pregnant. While women don’t have an expiration date for dating and marriage, women under 35 are more likely to conceive than women who are older. There’s a gradual decline in a woman’s ability to conceive as she ages, with the percentage chance of conceiving within a year going down over time. When a woman is in her early 20s, she has a 96% chance of getting pregnant within a year. When she’s over 30, she has a 78% chance. Once women are over 40, it’s significantly harder.
Lockdowns act like this reality doesn’t exist, that young women can just put off their lives for extended periods of time and not suffer any serious or far-reaching consequences. But locking women inside their homes, no matter how you try to justify it, steals valuable years from them that will have everything to do with how their lives look in the future and what they leave on this planet long after they’re gone.
Marriage and family are among the main ways that we derive deep meaning from our lives. They require sacrificing in order to serve others, and thus elevate us to a higher purpose. Finding a partner and having children is one of the most meaningful things that most of us will do in our entire lives. But our society increasingly seems to be treating family formation as unimportant, locking away young men and women who have little risk of falling seriously ill.
Society treats family formation as unimportant, locking away young adults who have little risk of falling seriously ill.
For all the chatter we hear about “the science” lately, both women’s fertility window and the fact that most young people recover from COVID-19 are absolutely rooted in science. Beyond that, studies are also very clear that social isolation leads to a shorter lifespan. According to one study, lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder. Loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity (which also happens to be a major risk factor for severe COVID-19). This is probably why 27,000 more people died of Alzheimer’s and dementia in 2020 compared with the previous five-year average.
With half the world experiencing below-replacement fertility rates and loneliness on the rise, it’s worth sounding the alarm on the devastating effects of lockdowns. It’s supremely harmful to young women, and it’s just another way that our modern world seems to be upside-down and backward.
Sacrificing the Young
People whose lives have already been set up neat and tidy – they own homes, have husbands and children, enjoy cushy computer jobs and a nice 401k – are often the ones telling young people that they need to halt their lives. The old are telling the young not to build. This is essentially the opposite action taken by healthy societies that seek to prosper long-term.
In the past, older members of society were willing to make sacrifices for the good of the young. Stepping aside to help the young was considered an honorable thing to do. Consider Isidor Strauss, who at 67 years old died during the sinking of the Titanic. He was offered a spot on a lifeboat due to his age, but he refused, saying, "I do not wish any distinction in my favor which is not granted to others." Strauss wasn’t willing to have favor conferred upon him simply because he was older. He accepted his situation with grace.
Authorities who are busy trying to prevent people from dying are really preventing people from living.
But this attitude no longer exists in our society. Young people are now expected to give up their lives and all their potential in order to assuage the fears of those who have already built homes, gotten married, had children, and formed families. Instead of protecting and making sacrifices for younger members of our society, we now simply sacrifice them without a thought.
In Australia, a country of about 25 million, there have been 921 deaths since the pandemic began – that’s 0.003% of the population. What we don’t have hard numbers for are the psychological and spiritual effects on an untold number of people who have been driven to despair, the number of potentially fruitful new connections going unmade, or the number of children not being born – all due to lockdowns.
Authorities who are busy trying to prevent people from dying are really preventing people from living and new life from being created.
Treating Young People Like Criminals
Total isolation – solitary confinement or home imprisonment – is a treatment so horrible, unnatural, and unbearable for humans that we previously reserved it as punishment only for the worst criminals. Yet society has become so inverted that we now treat good, healthy people this way. Many areas of this world have effectively become large-scale prisons.
We’ve become so fearful of death that we’re stealing from one another the very thing that makes life worth living – human relationships.
Many areas of this world have effectively become large-scale prisons.
Imagine that you’re on your deathbed right now. You look back at how you spent the last few months or years. Most of us would surely be filled with regret and deep sadness if we had done nothing but sit by ourselves, isolated and alone, during the last days of our lives. But if we looked back and remembered time laughing with friends, hugging family, and enjoying the company of others, we would likely feel gratitude for a life well lived and appreciation for all the moments we got to enjoy, however long we were blessed to walk this earth.
If lockdowns continue for years (and let’s be honest, it’s starting to look like this is a new, permanent state of our societies globally), many young people will not only miss out on the beautiful moments of communion and human connection that make life meaningful, but they’ll miss their chance to have children. They will be robbed of the experience of nurturing new life. They won’t have loving family members to care for them in their old age. There are multitudes of people who will never even be born as a result of this. It’s a total disaster.
Living in Fear
There’s a quote from The Princess Diaries that I love, when Mia’s father writes to her, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.”
Modern societies no longer seem to judge that a life well lived is more important than fear.
Sydney is so fearful that it has locked away millions of people due to 65 new virus cases. Modern societies no longer seem to judge that a life well lived is more important than fear. We instead place our fear in the highest position and build our lives around that. Everything we do serves our fear. Instead of serving something higher – God, family, community, beauty – we serve that which frightens us.
As Mia’s dad said, the only way out of this is for us to start judging that other things are more important than our fear – freedom, communion with others, marriage, building a family – and to be brave in pursuing it.
Society is taking a scary turn, and the toll on young people is great. Time will tell what effect lockdowns have on birth rates and marriages, but it’s likely not going to be good.
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