Social issues refer to those conditions that have a negative effect on a social group or individuals within the group.
Poverty, substance use disorders, discrimination based on gender or race, and unequal education opportunities – are just a few social issues examples we will explore in this article.
For example, poverty affects millions of people worldwide. Poverty can be crippling, preventing people from acquiring the most fundamental necessities of life: food and shelter. Such a lack of resources can also reduce one’s opportunity for education and health care coverage.
Investigating these issues can help sociologists ascertain how different social systems and formations influence our lives, thus providing us with the insight needed to construct a more equitable society.
Definition of Social Issues
Social issues are any condition or behavior that negatively affects individuals, groups, and communities.
From poverty and inequality to discrimination, exploitation, depression, violence, and substance abuse – these issues are all-encompassing.
By utilizing a multifaceted approach involving sociology, psychology, economics and political science, we can comprehensively understand social issues for more reasoned analysis.
Eagle and colleagues (2020) state that a social issue is:
“…a condition that involves harm to one or more individuals and/or one or more social entities has at least one social cause and/or at least one social effect, and consequently has at least one or more social remedies” (p. 312).
Social issues are important to study since they directly impact people’s daily lives. So, addressing them is essential for creating a better society.
For example, by studying and understanding poverty, we can develop more effective policies that help people out of this problem and reduce inequality.
Simply, social issues are the areas of concern that in any way influence people’s daily lives and shape our society.
Examples of Social Issues
Poverty is a pervasive and destructive social ill, wreaking havoc on the lives of countless people. It produces severehunger in many parts of the world and can lead to poorer health outcomes that hamper economic progress in societies.
By 2022, the rate of extreme global poverty skyrocketed to 9.3%, an increase from 8.4% in 2019 (The World Bank, 2022).
When people lack the fundamental resources needed to survive, such as food, water, and shelter, poverty is exacerbated by creating a never-ending cycle of deprivation that captures individuals and households alike.
2. Substance Abuse
In 2020, 37.309 million Americans aged 12 and above had used illicit substances within the past 30 days – a substantial portion of the US population (National Center for Abuse Statistics, 2022).
The repercussions of substance abuse can be devastating, ravaging not only individuals and their families but entire societies. Its destructive power is both physical and psychological, leaving a lasting toll on those it touches.
3. Unequal Access to Education and Healthcare
Unequal access to education and healthcare creates disparities between socio-economic groups. This discordant matter exacerbates the difficulty of those from disadvantaged backgrounds to access services that could positively influence their well-being.
Astonishingly, the United Nations estimates that 17% of all children, adolescents, and youth on a global scale – amounting to 258 million people worldwide – do not attend school (Schmelkes, 2022).
Without the availability of proper educational and healthcare facilities, these populations are in danger of greater poverty, ill health effects, and diminishing employment prospects.
Discrimination based on age, gender, or race can create division within societies and exacerbate inequalities between different groups.
This form of prejudice has deep roots in many cultures. It can manifest through unequal opportunities for work or housing, unfair treatment within educational settings, or even verbal abuse from members of the wider community.
For instance, Saudi Arabia is known for its gender-based restrictions that hinder women from achieving career advancement or wage equality in the workplace.
This issue creates a situation of systemic discrimination against female employees and keeps them behind professionally.
Violence is an expansive term that includes various physical attacks such as homicide, assault, and battery.
Still, it can also have more systemic forms, such as gang activity or domestic abuse, which are used to intimidate vulnerable populations into submission.
In America, it’s an unfortunate truth that nearly twenty individuals are physically abused by intimate partners every minute. That amounts to a staggering 10 million women and men for one year alone (NCADV, 2021).
Violence yields devastating effects, not only to the immediate victims but also society overall, as it fractures social unity.
Exploitation involves taking advantage of someone’s vulnerability through deception or coercion to gain some form of advantage over that person.
Exploitation might include forced labor (such as child labor) or human trafficking.
In third-world countries, exploitation is a major problem leading to poor working conditions and meager wages. This issue perpetuates poverty, especially in communities with few job opportunities.
It is a particularly insidious social issue that preys on the weak and marginalized members of society who may be unable to protect themselves against criminals looking for easy prey.
Social inequity exists when certain groups are unfairly denied access to resources such as money, power, or opportunities only due to personal characteristics like gender or race instead of the effort and merit they put forth.
As a result, these populations often experience poorer living conditions. They have higher poverty rates, crime exposure, and a lack of educational attainment.
Social norming can also decide who gets access to essential rights, privileges, and public amenities, including education, housing, or transportation, based on their social power.
Additionally, it determines the availability of credit services such as banking or other necessary goods for individuals and families in society.
This issue contributes further towards entrenching inequality throughout generations if changes are not implemented soon enough to break this vicious cycle.
Homelessness involves having no secure home where an individual can feel safe and protected from harm while they sleep at night.
The United Nations has registered that a staggering 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing worldwide. Sadly, 15 million of them face eviction annually (Filipenco, 2023).
This issue has severe mental and physical implications, leaving those without homes susceptible to great suffering in public places without protection and shelter.
Thus, they often find themselves partaking in hazardous activities such as begging, leaving them open to exploitation and increasing their peril.
9. Mental Health Issues
Mental health issues refer to various disorders involving feelings, thoughts, emotions, moods, and behaviors, which can significantly impair a person’s functioning.
From mild melancholia to relentless depression, these disorders span a range of conditions, from anxiety and panic attacks to eating disorders and an array of disabilities.
Poor mental health can disrupt communication and impede interactions with others, resulting in social isolation.
If left unaddressed, this condition can worsen, leading to greater psychological anguish and physical weakening with the potential of suicide or suicidal thoughts.
Unemployment happens when a person who is available and willing to work cannot find any job opportunities that offer them a daily wage.
In 2021, 19 countries were analyzed, and the average unemployment rate was 8.14%. South Africa had an exceptionally high rate of 33.56%, whereas Japan had a remarkably low level of 2.8% (TheGlobalEconomy, 2022).
This situation has negative effects on both the individual and the economy. For example, the person experiences a decreased purchasing power, which widens the gap between socio-economic classes.
When individuals lack the resources to purchase essential goods and services, they are left with nothing but crippling anxiety and social alienation.
Unemployment can also harm their self-esteem and identity, making it even more challenging to earn a source of income and sustain the lifestyle they had before becoming unemployed.
For society, a high unemployment rate can lead to a decline in production and contribute to class inequality.
List of Additional Social Issues
- Access to clean water
- Access to contraceptives
- Access to technology
- Affordable housing
- Animal agriculture
- Animal rights
- Animal testing
- Artificial Intelligence
- Automation and job loss
- Bureaucratic red tape
- Campaign finance reform
- Child labor
- Child marriage
- Child soldiers
- Childcare availability
- Climate change
- Cultural preservation
- Digital divide
- Digital privacy
- Discrimination against disabled individuals
- Diseases of affluence
- Diseases of despair
- Domestic violence
- Medication and healthcare pricing
- Economic recessions and depressions
- Educational achievement gap
- Elderly care
- Energy resources and consumption
- Environmental pollution
- Food insecurity
- Food safety and regulation
- Forced marriage
- Freedom of the press
- Free speech
- Gender-based violence
- Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- Hate crimes
- Human overconsumption
- Human rights violations
- Human trafficking
- Income and social mobility
- Income tax evasion
- Indigenous rights
- Infrastructure decay and access
- Institutional discrimination
- Intellectual property rights
- Internet censorship
- Juvenile justice
- Land rights
- LGBTQ+ rights
- Literacy rates
- Loss of biodiversity
- Maternity and paternity leave
- Moral panic
- National security
- Net neutrality
- Nuclear power safety
- Ocean pollution
- Pesticides in food
- Police brutality
- Political polarization
- Privacy invasion
- Public transit
- Racial discrimination
- Religious intolerance
- Reproductive rights
- School-to-prison pipeline
- Sex education
- Social media addiction
- Student loan crisis
- Sustainable agriculture
- Tax reform
- Urban decay
- Veterans’ issues
- Voter suppression
- Wage gap
- Water scarcity
- Worker’s rights
- Workplace discrimination
- Youth unemployment
Common Ways to Deal with Social Issues
Addressing social issues necessitates a comprehensive approach involving the government, communities, and individuals.
One of the most impactful approaches to addressing societal challenges involves creating policies that foster economic opportunities and ensure access to vital services.
Governments can assist disadvantaged citizens by supplying educational aid, instituting public housing initiatives, and enforcing labor regulations that secure workers from exploitation (including minimum wage laws).
Furthermore, communities can join forces to help raise awareness of pertinent social issues through campaigns and initiatives.
On an individual level, people can cultivate empathy and compassion towards the less fortunate and educate themselves on the causes of social issues.
Social issues are matters that affect countless individuals across the world. These problems may reflect current events, but they often comprise long-standing problems or disagreements that can be incredibly difficult to resolve.
In modern society, myriad social issues can have devastating consequences for individuals and their communities.
From poverty and homelessness to mental health issues and unemployment struggles, these are just a few of our society’s many pressing concerns.
These concerns necessitate a multifaceted solution and can only be solved effectively when the government, local communities, and individuals join forces.
So, only by cooperating and taking action to educate ourselves and develop empathy for others can we strive to have a better world.
Eagle, L., Dahl, S., & De Pelsmacker, P. (2020). The SAGE handbook of marketing ethics. New York: Sage Publications.
Filipenco, D. (2023, February 28). DevelopmentAid. DevelopmentAid. https://www.developmentaid.org/news-stream/post/157797/homelessness-statistics-in-the-world
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2021). Statistics. NCADV. https://ncadv.org/statistics
Schmelkes, S. (2020, January 22). Recognizing and overcoming inequity in education. United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/un-chronicle/recognizing-and-overcoming-inequity-education
The World Bank. (2022, November 30). Poverty overview. World Bank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/overview
TheGlobalEconomy. (2022). Unemployment rate in G20. TheGlobalEconomy. https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/rankings/Unemployment_rate/G20/