Social effects of Covid-19 | Sunday Observer

Social effects of Covid-19

5 September, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has created numerous psychological and social effects on the entire population in Sri Lanka. Various researches conducted throughout the world revealed that the impacts on the well-being of the exposed segments or people who are directly affected were enormous and ongoing even over nearly 19 months. The most vulnerable groups are a self-employed fraternity, students, health workers, law enforcement, and others who are constantly physically exposed to society.

The pandemic has affected all segments of the population although there are more susceptible social groups that exist in the society. Whilst the health impact is its highest with the older population and people with chronic diseases, other groups such as students, people with disabilities, inmates of children’s and elder’s homes, and youth as a whole are affected unfavourably.

Isolation affecting mind

These susceptible groups are likely to develop a post-traumatic disorder, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of distress according to the relevant medical experts. Unlike in a normal environment where they can have close relationships with peers, the current chaotic environment deprives them of that luxury making them more defenseless psychologically.

According to the official statistics released by the Government, older adults who are above the age of sixty are the most vulnerable in Sri Lanka currently with the highest number of hospitalisations and fatalities. They are experiencing disproportionately higher adverse effects with more severe complications both in health and social factors.

Due to the difficulty in adapting to technologies such as tele medicine, constantly or permanently they have to obtain assistance from peers creating concern of dependability. Also, as a result of economic hardships prevail in society due to the pandemic, the younger family members are unable to tend to the adults as they wish. This phenomenon creates a feeling of isolation and loneliness among the older adult groups. Most of the adult population in Sri Lanka, particularly in rural sectors, lack the resources required to deal with the stress.

Although the ‘Delta’ variant makes the young population more susceptible to infection, so far youth around the world generally are not affected as much as the old population. Hence, many countries have called on the youth to assist the effort against the virus by aiding public health social awareness campaigns. However, so far Sri Lanka has not yet called for such help from the young population.

Even though the infection rate is low in youth around the world, according to UNICEF research, that the daily life of young people with 46% report having less motivation to do activities they usually enjoyed before the Covid-19 pandemic. Also, 36% of them feel less motivated to do customary errands in their day-to-day life. Undoubtedly, this fact creates a psychological concern.

Youth addicting to social media

The pandemic experience can immensely disturb the mental health of the youth if the current restrictions continue for a further extended period. These habits can make the youth to be indolent permanently.

The most noticeable changes found in youth behaviour include reduced physical activities, increased sedentary habits, and enhanced social media usage. In addition, with the availability of smartphones, mostly purchased for them by parents for online educational activities, the adolescents keep getting into addictions of playing computer games or unwarranted entertainment.

The mainstream and social media recently went viral with a story that a teenager committing suicide when his mother requested him not to continue to play computer games. However, the overexposed media coverage is questionable whether an adverse message is communicated to the youth and cited as a bad example.

In Sri Lanka, the importance rendered to the youth population on the present distressful environment and their mental health is seemingly inadequate, as per this writer’s opinion. Certainly, the Government has more important and more pressing related issues. Therefore, it is the professionals and intellectuals in the field of both psychology and sociology who should come out voluntarily to communicate to this most important segment of the population.

Families throughout the country have undergone changes as well as challenges since the break out of the pandemic. Every day uncertainty looms around on issues such as the education of children, the impact of lock downs, job losses, reduced income, and other social factors.

The daily lives of the family members have drastically changed. The habitual practices of the family had to be altered partially or completely. The change in daily lives was completely unexpected and swift at the early stage of the pandemic. However, even after eighteen long months, except in brief periods, the situation deteriorated further, rather than easing.

The workload of adults became different and more stressful whilst children were compelled to adjust to new conditions making them also immensely traumatic. Children, regardless of their ages, keep on using online games or other entertainment platforms to reduce stress.

Those engaged in essential services such as medical, health, law enforcement, tri-forces, and other important national duties were the worst hit segments. Thousands of them, who are deprived of being with families, sometimes for prolonged periods, have already created a psycho-social issue.

Another pressing social issue the pandemic has created, perhaps the worst in history, was the effects inflicted on education. Sri Lankan students, numbering approximately over four million in 10,155 schools in the country and around further 88,000 in state universities have not attended their regular classroom education during the past eighteen months.

Virtual education is somewhat alien to Sri Lankan students although they are adapting themselves to the online learning process now. However, almost every student regardless of whether primary, secondary, higher, and university, are eagerly waiting to get back to their respective classrooms.

Losing outdoors life

Homeschooling is not only one of the biggest changes for students but also an enormous challenge to parents. It has added extra pressure on both students and the parents. Whilst the adults are forced to engage in extra parenting, the students are deprived of most of their outside activities.

They have already lost precious time of eighteen months of their leisure activities and interrelationships with others. This has created a considerable psychological issue as per the experts and they are attempting to provide remedies.

Families have lost holidays, picnics, parties, and social gatherings due to the health crisis. The irony is that, unlike any other instance, there is no prediction as yet for returning to normalcy.

Some experts say that returning everything to the previous situation will take many years whilst some others predict that the world will not return to normalcy and everything will become New Normal.

The only available solution at present for all the problems and hardships created by the pandemic is vaccination.

Although the long-term effects are yet to determine, the unanimous advice of the medical experts throughout the world engaged in the pandemic treatments or research is to vaccinate everyone.

Except in a situation of the surfacing of a new variant that will not respond to the currently available vaccines, the pandemic will be under control sooner or later, although annihilation is not predicted as of now. Except for isolated complications, there were no serious incidents reported so far anywhere in the world including Sri Lanka.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the interrelationships of people more than one can remember in the history of mankind. The irony is that, unlike previous occasions, the catastrophe is not limited to a country, region, or hemisphere. It also is killing people, spreading human suffering physically and mentally, and upending people’s lives. The pandemic is much more than a mere health crisis but a human, economic, and social disaster that attacks the core of societies.

The Medical fraternity, sociologists, and researchers around the globe state that psychological and social preparedness for the crisis is of paramount importance to societies throughout the world. Therefore, due care needs to be taken to deal with the psychological and social issues associated with the disease by establishing proper systems such as healthcare institutions, awareness programs at community levels, telephone helplines to alleviate psychosocial distress prevailing in the country.