What is a social problem?
Social issues refer to any matter that causes social distress for a social group or affects a substantial number of people in society. They can be caused by a variety of factors, from social programming to economic issues, and usually have consequences existing far beyond the individual's control. Social problems are often addressed through a collective effort as they require multiple points of view to most effectively assess and tackle the root cause. Disagreements may arise in opinions on the level of priority placed on social issues, making it difficult yet essential to come together on social reform.
Examples of social issues with extensive and serious consequences
- Human trafficking
- Drug abuse
- Educational inequality
- Healthcare inequality
- Social security shortfall
- Racial discrimination
- Gender inequality
- Animal abuse
- Childhood obesity
- Gun violence
- Population aging
- Smartphone addiction
- Domestic violence
- Political Polarization
- Media propaganda
Social issues such as poverty are having a devastating impact on the global population. In 2021, wage inequality has exacerbated the situation even more, with an estimated 698 million people stuck in extreme poverty and barely scraping by on less than $1.90 per day. Of course, this income divide is not even- income inequalities extend well beyond this low line of income; over 1.8 billion people live below the higher $3.20 poverty line while another 3.2 billion people make up over two-fifths living below $5.50 per day globally. Poverty is a continuing social problem that needs to be addressed in order to promote an equal society and ensure basic human rights for all poor people across the entire world.
Homelessness is an enduring problem that affects millions of people worldwide. The number of homeless people across the globe is estimated to be as high as 150 million, with many of them living in inadequate housing and vulnerable to sexual violence and various other human rights violations. Homelessness violates the right to access a safe, stable, and dignified shelter which is a basic human right according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition, homelessness creates immense economic issues on local service providers who are tasked with providing aid and resources to those affected. There is an urgent need for international efforts to provide support for those experiencing homelessness and collaborate with governments and organizations around the entire world in order to find meaningful solutions to this growing global issue.
Human trafficking, a social problem around the world, is of grave concern. An estimated 24.9 million victims worldwide are stripped of their basic human rights and exploited through sexual violence without any money or sense of freedom. Traffickers often illegally hold victims for long periods of time with little to no basis for legal remedies due to the lack of laws and law enforcement across nations. The good news is that more than 175 nations have ratified or acceded to the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (the UN TIP Protocol), which defines trafficking in persons and contains obligations to help prevent and combat this serious crime.
Drug abuse is an unfortunately common social problem with far-reaching implications. The use of various chemicals to produce pleasurable effects can alter behaviors, disrupt social issues, and even jeopardize public health. The global community has recently seen more than 190 million people engaging in drug abuse, with the majority of users under the age of 30. Governments are providing more awareness programs to tackle this problem, but it is ultimately up to individuals and social groups to ensure that these behaviors cease to exist. Given the severity of this social issue, all available resources must be used in order to eradicate it from our societies.
Educational inequality is a social problem that affects both individuals and society as a whole. In an unequal education system, not everyone has equal access to resources, such as qualified teachers, necessary technologies, and adequate school funding. This creates a gap in educational opportunity between various social groups and defines the success of those who can attend better-resourced schools. As a result, disparities exist between marginalized communities in academic advancement and overall economic performance. These differences are reflective of wider trends in income inequality; with people from certain social backgrounds far more likely to succeed than those from others. Educational inequality is therefore one example of wider social issues affecting equality and opportunity today.
Healthcare inequality is a serious social problem that has contributed to the persisting income gap between social groups. This is clearly manifested in the distinct life expectancies between different strata of society. It shows how those belonging to a higher socio-economic category tend to experience much better health and longer life spans than those who reside in lower-income communities. Sadly, people’s access to healthcare, medicines, treatments, and vaccines is largely determined by their economic background, further compounding the dire living conditions of many. Even more disturbing is the fact that there remain significant disparities among developed nations with regard to basic healthcare access, showcasing how this problem still plagues modern societies today.
Social security shortfall
Social Security is a vital social program that provides retirement income and disability income for millions of Americans. However, the program is facing a significant shortfall due to the reduction of active workers paying into the system as Baby Boomers retire. This presents an immense social problem, as aging Americans rely on Social Security to supplement their income and combat poverty and social inequality. As Congress looks to address this issue, it is important to take a holistic approach that considers not only restoring funds but creating more options for individuals in order to close the growing income gap within society. Given the magnitude of Social Security's impact on society, any solution must ensure that all social groups can succeed financially in their retirement years.
Racism and discrimination
Racial discrimination is a serious social issue that has been prevalent in our society for a long time. They involve the differential treatment of members of different ethnic, religious, national, or other groups based on prejudice and stereotypes. Racism assumes certain characteristics inherent in racial groups and thus pigeonholes certain individuals into inferior categories. Discrimination takes the form of negative emotional reactions to members of rejected groups, along with hostile and injurious treatment. Sadly, such discriminatory practices make racism a significant social problem that must be addressed head-on, for the advancement of all members of our society. Black Lives Matter movement against racism toward black people is one example.
Americans' beliefs about climate change have shifted in recent years, largely due to improved climate change communication and the influence of news media. Significant conservation efforts have been put forth to reduce emissions from human activities and mitigate the impact of climate change. But despite these ongoing efforts, the public still struggles with understanding the scope of climate change and what it means for their lives today and future generations. To adequately address this problem, there needs to be more dialogue between citizens and continued press coverage on the impacts of global warming.
Gender inequality has long been a pressing social problem. Studies have shown that sexual assault against women is pervasive across the world, and research reveals that women in countries suffer from some form of discrimination. This has become increasingly visible in our current political climate, with prominent figures advocating for a wide range of inequalities. As a result of gender inequality, contemporary women's movements have arisen to address this issue. These efforts seek to eliminate gender disparities in areas such as health, education, and business life. From pay equity initiatives to sexual harassment laws to maternity leave policies, these efforts are critical steps toward equality on all fronts.
War is a terrible form of social conflict and can come in a variety of forms. It has been argued that nations go to war when they feel there are no other options and perceive the advantages to be greater than the disadvantages. Depending on the reasons for going to war, it can involve not just military forces but also cause sexual violence as well as political and economic turmoil. The news media plays an important role in disseminating information about ongoing wars, such as the one between Russia and Ukraine, bringing awareness to many countries around the world. War holds serious consequences for many people, so global efforts should be made to encourage peaceful resolutions instead of resorting to military force.
Immigration and refugee
Immigration and refugee crises are global social issues with wide-reaching, negative consequences. They have been driven by global warming, violence, human trafficking, and ethnic cleansing. It's more important than ever for us to provide a safe haven for victims of these disasters so that they may heal from the trauma and rebuild their lives. Displaced many people often suffer from poverty, poor health, and inadequate access to basic necessities like food, clean water, and shelter. We must work together to build effective policies that strongly defend the rights of refugees and immigrants everywhere to ensure communities thrive in this globalized world.
Animal abuse is a problem that is unacceptable and should not be tolerated - it's a form of violence that can have wide-reaching consequences on many aspects of our society. Beyond inflicting physical pain and suffering on an animal, animal abusers often use their power over animals as a way to demonstrate power and control over their partner or other humans, contributing to the cycle of domestic abuse. Animal abuse can also be a precursor to further social issues, highlighting the need for many people to take action in order to protect both people and animals from this devastating form of social injustice.
Bullying is a social issue that affects many school-aged children, ultimately resulting in serious consequences. It is aggressive behavior by one person or group towards another wherein an imbalance of power exists and can be repeated over and over. This power imbalance might be physical strength, knowledge of embarrassing information, or social status and it typically causes someone to feel hurt, scared and humiliated. Unfortunately, not only victims of bullying may suffer from the effects; people who bully others may experience long-lasting problems as well. Recognizing bullying as a problem is important and requires action- whether it's reporting bullying episodes or educating bystanders in ways they can intervene safely and effectively on behalf of the victim.
Childhood obesity is a problem that is widely prevalent in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 children between the ages of 2-19 years old is affected by this social issue, making it one of the most prevalent health problems among children and adolescents today. This social issue can typically occur when a child has more body fat than what's considered healthy for their age and height - referred to as having a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile on the CDC’s specific growth charts. Childhood obesity can have long-term consequences including poor self-esteem, social isolation, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and even heart disease. It's important to mindset preventive approaches such as providing access to healthier food options at school; encouraging physical activities; providing education on healthy social media practices, and increasing awareness about childhood obesity as a social issue.
Gun violence has become a major social issue in today's world, with serious implications for public safety and social order. According to the news media, over 500 people die from gun-related incidents every day, 44% of which are homicides. To make matters worse, up to 2 million people are living with firearm injuries around the world. What's more, research has shown that most victims and perpetrators of gun violence are young men. Women may even be more at risk due to potential violence perpetrated by an intimate partner. Gun violence is both a problem and also a form of violent crime because it often leads to other serious crimes such as robbery or related offenses such as trafficking of firearms. More needs to be done in order to prevent innocent lives from being taken because of gun-related events around the world.
Overpopulation is a social issue with immense consequences for social stability, economic growth, and environmental sustainability. The last two centuries have seen a sharp rise in the entire world population due to improved medical care and higher agricultural productivity. According to the UN, the population is projected to reach almost 11 billion by 2100. Overpopulation can place a heavy strain on social services and infrastructure, and increase demand for resources such as food, water, and energy- ultimately leading to a decrease in quality of life. It can also drive competition among countries over scarce resources, leading to social unrest and conflict. Overall, it is clear that tackling human overpopulation is necessary in order to ensure social progress and better living conditions for future generations.
Housing is an example of a problem that continues to be an issue across the globe. News media coverage often emphasizes the rising costs of housing and the number of individuals and families unable to afford it. Many social scientists point out that low income and high housing costs are at the root of homelessness, but this does not factor in all social issues associated with not having adequate shelter. In addition to income, educational achievement, mental illness, and gender-based violence may also play a role in contributing to homelessness. Solutions are often multi-faceted and require complex approaches to higher social welfare from both governmental as well as community initiatives in order to successfully address the problem of housing.
Child labor is an all too common example of a problem everywhere around the world, especially in countries with extreme poverty. Estimates indicate that one in four children are engaged in such activity, with more than half of those coming from sub-Saharan African nations such as Guinea-Bissau and Chad. What's more alarming is that agriculture, considered to be the largest employer, significantly contributes to such a harsh reality in these communities. Such consequences of child labor often arise from and are aggravated by lack of formal education and poverty. Unfortunately, not all efforts put into eradicating such practice have been successful, as powerful groups benefit from such cycles of exploitation. Furthermore, resistance to such abolishment has heightened in politically unstable countries—another factor that remains forefront when trying to combat this social issue.
Population aging is becoming increasingly prominent across many countries as a problem. This demographic shift is having a major impact on social and health systems, yet news media rarely promote the discussion surrounding this social issue. In 2020, the number of people aged 60 years and older has surpassed that of children younger than 5 years – indicative of the pace of population aging that is much faster than in the past. Between 2015 and 2050, experts predict this proportion will nearly double from 12% to 22%. With 80% of older people projected to be living in low- and middle-income countries by 2050, it’s vital that policymakers are addressing these social issues now to ensure global populations are adequately supported in the future.
The negative consequences of smartphone addiction have become increasingly apparent, from influencing popular perception around social norms and etiquette to reducing the public’s attention span. Academic researchers suggest it is partly driven by a desire for quick feedback and immediate satisfaction that become conditioned over time. "Our neurons get fired and dopamine is being released," noted Isaac Vaghefi, assistant professor of management information systems at the Binghamton University-State University of New York, "and over time this makes us acquire a desire for quick feedback and immediate satisfaction". Although increased connectivity can certainly provide benefits, social scientists agree that it is important to identify the potentially negative outcomes of unchecked smartphone usage in order to tackle the wider problem.
Domestic violence is a problem and a large-scale epidemic that has been a significant public health concern for a long time. It largely affects many individuals, many of whom remain unidentified or unassisted. This type of violence often takes multidimensional forms such as psychological, physical, and sexual abuse which unfortunately exists even in the most developed societies. However, different government programs have been put in place to help minimize its effects and a more proactive response would be ideal. While raising awareness about domestic violence is an important first step, improved collaboration among NGOs could bring about a greater impact on vulnerable populations affected by this issue.
Political polarization is an increasingly prominent problem affecting the key beliefs and values of Americans. This polarization has caused a heated divide between many citizens, leading to exacerbated disagreements within key areas of society such as families, workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, and religious organizations. While this type of tension is potentially necessary in times of injustice or difficult times, it is also important to recognize that this form of social hostility comes with its own set of consequences and the lasting effects of increased extremism can be damaging to society. Therefore, efforts must be made to reduce the severity of societal divisiveness and create bridges between those on different sides of key issues.
Businesses affected by cybercrime suffer significant financial losses, which in turn can lead to a rise in underemployment and unemployment rate. It also has impacts on their reputation as news quickly spreads about data breaches and incidents of cyberbullying and cyberterrorism connected to reliable names and companies. This, in turn, may lead to decreased faith from consumers, leading them to go elsewhere for their products or services. As with other forms of crime, media stories regarding businesses involved in cybercrime likely yield negative results and loss of trust.
Influential politicians often exploit the resources of their population for their own gain and with little or no attention being paid to its overall impact. Corruption is a problem that has an influential negative impact on communities on both a local and global level. It is not only an illegal act but also a major social issue that needs to be tackled to bring about betterment in society. It affects everyone’s daily lives, eroding trust within communities and weakening the government’s ability to provide essential services to people. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tackle corruption due to its seemingly endless reach and prevalence.
Suicide is an example of a problem that has terrible consequences. Despite all efforts to prevent such tragedies, there is often little or no basis from which to draw an accurate understanding of the cause of such acts. A majority of such cases are usually linked to some form of inequality, such as financial hardship, with most such instances occurring among people of lower social class status; as such, it is important for society to recognize and make an effort to even out such disparities in order for everyone to have greater access to opportunity and quality of life.
Propaganda, fake news, and misinformation pose serious threats to the way in which we view the world and influence public perceptions. Too often, this false information is geared toward stirring up emotions and inciting action by misinforming individuals on matters of policy or current affairs. Social media platforms have become increasingly influential as a source of news and influence how people perceive events and respond to them. As such, there is a risk that false information can be disseminated faster than authentic news coverage, further distorting reality and swaying opinion. The risks of this type of influence are particularly concerning for young people, who rely on social media for much of their news consumption.
Take action to the problem in society
Given the wide-ranging and often devastating consequences of these many social issues, it is clear that action must be taken to address them. Strategies for combating climate change, inequality, corruption, suicide, pandemics, media propaganda, and other pervasive issues can include public education initiatives and legislative or policy reforms aimed at improving access to opportunities and resources for all members of society. It is also crucial that we work to strengthen our communities, support one another through difficult times, and resist the dangerous spread of false information. Only by taking concerted action can we hope to overcome these troubling social problems and make our society a better place for everyone.
- Tags: Social issue