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A Literature Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Lockdowns on COVID-19 Mortality


  • Herby, Jonas

    (Centre for Political Studies)

  • Jonung, Lars

    (Lund University)

  • Hanke, Steve

    (The Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise)


This systematic review and meta-analysis are designed to determine whether there is empirical evidence to support the belief that “lockdowns” reduce COVID-19 mortality. Lockdowns are defined as the imposition of at least one compulsory, non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI). NPIs are any government mandate that directly restrict peoples’ possibilities, such as policies that limit internal movement, close schools and businesses, and ban international travel. This study employed a systematic search and screening procedure in which 18,590 studies are identified that could potentially address the belief posed. After three levels of screening, 34 studies ultimately qualified. Of those 34 eligible studies, 24 qualified for inclusion in the meta-analysis. They were separated into three groups: lockdown stringency index studies, shelter-in-place-order (SIPO) studies, and specific NPI studies. An analysis of each of these three groups support the conclusion that lockdowns have had little to no effect on COVID-19 mortality. More specifically, stringency index studies find that lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% on average. SIPOs were also ineffective, only reducing COVID-19 mortality by 2.9% on average. Specific NPI studies also find no broad-based evidence of noticeable effects on COVID-19 mortality. While this meta-analysis concludes that lockdowns have had little to no public health effects, they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted. In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument.

Suggested Citation

  • Herby, Jonas & Jonung, Lars & Hanke, Steve, 2022. "A Literature Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Lockdowns on COVID-19 Mortality," Studies in Applied Economics 200, The Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise.
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:jhisae:0200

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    Blog mentions

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    1. Some Links
      by Don Boudreaux in Cafe Hayek on 2022-11-16 16:00:57
    2. 3 examples of post-publication review (ecology, the underground economy, and “lockdowns”)
      by ? in Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science on 2022-07-05 13:34:22


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    5. Barro, Robert J., 2022. "Non-pharmaceutical interventions and mortality in U.S. cities during the great influenza pandemic, 1918–1919," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 93-106.
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    More about this item


    COVID-19; lockdown; non-pharmaceutical interventions; mortality; systematic review; meta-analysis;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D19 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Other
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs


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