How the COVID-19 pandemic impacted social cohesion

The scientists sought to explore whether the pandemic had brought societies closer together or exacerbated social divisions, considering it as a central question. Dr. Mandi Larsen, a sociologist at Constructor University, emphasized that the empirical knowledge gathered in this special issue contributes to our understanding of the social implications of the pandemic. The aim is to establish a solid scientific foundation that can aid in effectively addressing future pandemics from a socio-political perspective. Dr. Larsen collaborated with her esteemed colleagues, Dr. Georgi Dragolov and Prof. Dr. Jan Delhey from Constructor University and Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg, in overseeing the special issue. The trio also co-authored the introduction to the special issue, which was published on May 10th, 2023.

The special issue comprises nine articles that delve into the ramifications of the pandemic and the implemented containment measures by governments. The authors explore a range of topics, including the impact on vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and migrants across different countries. One article specifically examines the ideological polarization that arose during the pandemic, using Austria as a case study, while another focuses on the phenomenon of Corona deniers in Germany. Furthermore, other articles analyze the significance of poverty in the context of the pandemic and describe the experiences and challenges faced in Russia. Collectively, these articles provide valuable insights into various aspects of the pandemic’s social consequences and offer a comprehensive understanding of its effects on different societies.

A key commonality among all the studies is their focus on at least one of the three fundamental elements of social cohesion outlined in the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Social Cohesion Radar. This framework, developed by social scientists from the universities involved in the special issue, encompasses social relationships (including loneliness), trust in institutions (particularly political institutions), and the willingness to provide help, care for others, and actively engage in the pursuit of the common good. Dr. Mandi Larsen highlights the significance of social cohesion as the adhesive that holds societies together. She emphasizes that the special issue offers valuable context and insights into the current state of research on this crucial topic.

The special issue acknowledges that there is no straightforward answer to whether the pandemic fostered unity or led to societal divisions. The outcome is contingent upon various factors, including the specific societal context, implemented measures, and different phases of the pandemic. The sociologist emphasizes that comprehending this complexity is crucial in developing long-term strategies to effectively manage the social consequences of the current and future pandemics. By delving into these complexities and providing a nuanced understanding, the special issue contributes to the ongoing discourse on navigating the social implications of pandemics.