As people across the northeastern U.S. begin venturing back into the outdoors with the arrival of spring, they will make 1 billion fewer trips than they otherwise would have if Lyme disease didn’t exist, a new Yale study concludes.
In an analysis published in the journal Environmental and Resource Economics
, researchers found that perceived risks of contracting Lyme disease on average cause a person in the Northeast to forego eight 73-minute outdoor trips per year, costing them about nine hours of outdoor time per year. Although the cost of individual lost trips is small — about $2.75 to $5 — the total cost roughly $2.8 billion to $5 billion annually due to the large number of people in the region.
“Lyme disease has been around for a few decades but it still has a big cost to society,” said Eli Fenichel
, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and senior author of the paper. “But the cost is not what people spend on doctors, or medicine, or even bug spray. These are costs that everybody incurs because we’re all choosing second-choice activities to avoid getting Lyme disease.”
“It’s a lot of people making very small changes, but in such a densely populated region that has major impacts.”