Shutdown of economy may cause more harm than COVID-19, Dr. Phil says

Dr. Phil
Dr. Phil McGraw, television personality and psychologist, talks about cyber-bullying during a hearing of the Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 24, 2010. |

The shutdown of the economy could cause more poverty and mental health-related destruction than the new coronavirus that originated in China, according to television personality Dr. Phil McGraw.

In an interview with Fox News opinion host Laura Ingraham Thursday night, McGraw noted that many other factors contribute to large numbers of fatalities every year but the nation doesn't go on lockdown.

“This is invisible. I can’t show you an X-ray of depression, I can’t show you an X-ray of anxiety, but the fact of the matter is, the longer this lockdown goes on the more vulnerable people get, and it’s like there’s a tipping point,” McGraw said.

“There’s a point at which people start having enough problems in lockdown that it will actually create more destruction and actually more death across time than the actual virus will itself. Two-hundred-and-fifty people a year die from poverty. And the poverty line is getting such that more and more people are going to fall below that because the economy is crashing around us, and they’re doing that because people are dying from the coronavirus, I get that.”

His comments come as the White House sets in motion its multiphase plans to reopen the economy after weeks of being shut down, except for services states have deemed "essential."

McGraw went on to explain that approximately 45,000 people die from car accidents annually, about 480,000 die from cigarette smoking, around 360,000 a year from drowning in swimming pools, yet the economy is never shuttered for any of those reasons. But the actions taken because of COVID-19 will have long-lasting repercussions because people’s lives are being destroyed, he said.

While McGraw’s stats on smoking deaths in the U.S. were accurate and his numbers were close on fatalities caused by car accidents, his numbers were significantly off regarding drowning, The Daily Wire noted. Deaths in the U.S. caused by drowning in swimming pools is only around 3,500 per year, not 360,000. However, drowning accidents are the cause of some 320,000 deaths worldwide annually, according to the World Health Organization

Critics of McGraw took to social media to both point out the incorrect number of drowning deaths and to argue that his words were not responsible, especially given that none of the causes of deaths he mentioned are transmissible and spread quickly like the COVID-19 disease and was thus a faulty comparison. Others also pointed out that he is not a medical doctor.

McGraw wasn't the only television personality to stir controversy on Fox News Thursday night.

Dr. Mehmet Oz of "The Dr. Oz Show" has also been sharing health advice since the pandemic broke out, advising Americans to increase their personal hygiene practices and take practical precautions when in public and before entering the house after going to the grocery store or picking up take-out meals.

He told Fox News opinion host Sean Hannity that at this point in time he believes schools ought to consider reopening, citing a journal article in the Lancet which asserts that doing so might only lead to 2% to 3%, in terms of total mortality. However, amid a flurry of online criticism, Oz apologized for his remark, saying he misspoke.

Both McGraw and Oz rose to prominence and have become household names as a result of their years spent alongside Oprah Winfrey on her television show.

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