The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic became an unprecedented challenge in modern history, lacking immediate and straightforward resolution. It has already disrupted the economy, politics, and communities across the globe. This event also has had far-reaching social implications. Notably, the COVID-19 pandemic sometimes decreased cohesion but increased isolation and inequality within society.
One of the victims of this pandemic was social cohesion. Extreme dangers posed by COVID-19 often inspired solidarity and collective action but occasionally created new complications. Many communities and societies faced disagreements and increased polarization over different views on the pandemic and appropriate methods for managing it. Indeed, not all individuals recognized the pandemic as a threat that required serious response and sacrifice. For instance, many British neighborhoods faced tensions over adherence to social distancing rules (Borkowska and Laurence 619). A study by Borkowska and Laurence (625) also revealed a decline in various metrics of social cohesion in England during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many residents’ belief in their similarity to neighbors and readiness to help them declined. Although not all trends in the study are negative, these findings demonstrate that COVID-19 tested the unity of many communities; it might remain a divisive force in the near future.
Another social impact of COVID-19 is isolation. The mass introduction of lockdowns forced billions of people to change their lifestyles overnight. Many everyday activities and social interactions (such as shopping or visiting friends) faced severe restrictions. Such drastic measures were essential to curb the spread of COVID-19 during the first month of the pandemic when no viable alternatives were available (Hwang et al. 1217). However, this policy also exposed millions of people to prolonged isolation and restriction of social contacts. As a result, loneliness and its impacts (such as depression) became much more prevalent. Isolation and loneliness can result in various conditions and complications, including a higher risk of sudden coronary death and mental health issues, and reduced quality of life. In other words, COVID-19 is likely to confront communities with complex burdens of physical and mental health problems in the long run.
Lastly, COVID-19 made societies much more unequal. Although inequality existed in all societies prior to the pandemic, some individuals and groups proved more vulnerable to this calamity than others. For instance, individuals working in the hospitality industry were much more likely to either lose their jobs or face very precarious terms of employment. As a general trend, disadvantaged individuals with low incomes had to deal with the higher financial and other costs of the pandemic. Namely, persons with low incomes often had to continue working despite the high risk of infection, fearing loss of jobs and sources of income (Ahmed et al. 240). Wealthier households seldom encountered such problems, having larger savings and more opportunities to work remotely. Hence, the pandemic will probably continue exacerbating the old social divisions, producing even greater inequality in terms of incomes, health, and quality of life.
In conclusion, COVID-19 profoundly reshaped society, undermining its cohesion and increasing levels of isolation and inequality, as well as their adverse effects. While social distancing and other measures helped curb the virus, they disproportionately affected more vulnerable groups and became a source of tension. Most likely, communities will need years to adapt to these changes and overcome their impacts.
Ahmed, Faheem, et al. “Why Inequality Could Spread COVID-19.” The Lancet Public Health, vol. 5, no. 5, 2020, 240.
Borkowska, Magda, and James Laurence. “Coming Together or Coming Apart? Changes in Social Cohesion during the Covid-19 Pandemic in England.” European Societies, vol. 23, no. 1, 2021, pp. 618-636.
Hwang, Tzung-Jeng, et al. “Loneliness and Social Isolation during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” International Psychogeriatrics, vol. 32, no. 10, 2020, pp. 1217-1220.