COVID-19: How Has The Pandemic Changed Our Society?

Published on
Product Minting
How to

On 11 March 2020 - three months after the first human coronavirus cases were identified in Wuhan, China - the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the outbreak of COVID-19 had become a global pandemic.

As of September 2023, there have been over 770 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 6.9 million deaths. However, Juliet Bedford, founder and director of Anthrologica, said: “No epidemic is ever just a health issue in isolation, and COVID-19 has emphasized this on the global stage. We need to be looking at it in terms of an economic issue, a livelihood issue, a social issue, and a political issue, too.

So, in this article, I look at the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has changed our world for better and worse.


Education technology

Let’s start with a positive. The global education technology market is expected to be worth a whopping $404 billion by 2025, which is $221 billion more than what it was worth in 2019, the year before COVID-19 forced students into the world of online learning.

Following the return to classrooms, technology has been actively integrated into lesson plans, and education facilities continue to adopt digital teaching methods because using technology for learning has many potential benefits for students, such as:

  • Improves engagement
  • Makes collaboration easier
  • Offers flexibility
  • Increases productivity
  • Encourages creativity
  • Prepares students for future
  • Enables automation
  • Promotes inclusion


Primary, secondary, and tertiary schools were forced to close in 2020 in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus during the first wave. Shutdowns soon affected nearly 1.6 billion students in 200 countries, 94% of the student population.

These closures had adverse effects on students and are predicted to have substantial long-term implications for education and earnings. An Ofsted report published in November 2020 found that whilst some children living in England had coped well with lockdown, others had struggled, regressing academically and losing basic skills.

The report indicated that the pandemic had badly impacted children with special educational needs.


Within a few months of the COVID-19 pandemic beginning, extreme poverty went up by 7%, ending a 20-year streak of progress.

In October 2020, World Bank Group President David Malpass said: “In order to reverse this serious setback to development progress and poverty reduction, countries will need to prepare for a different economy post-COVID, by allowing capital, labour, skills, and innovation to move into new businesses and sectors.

\Research found that the pandemic disproportionately impacted low-income countries, with 45% of workers in low and lower-middle-income countries losing jobs or businesses, compared to just 10% in high-income countries.

High-income countries such as the UK, Australia, and Switzerland had the means to intervene early to protect people and businesses. However, low- and middle-income countries were unable to do the same.

Figures estimate that the UK’s government Covid support measures totaled £169bn since 2020: £100bn of this went to individuals, while the remaining £69bn was spent on business support schemes.


(Image Source: Institute for Government)


During the pandemic, many nations restricted local, national, and international travel, which resulted in positive climate news when global energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 5.8%, the largest-ever decline in global CO2 emissions.

However, this historical decline was a short-term positive of lockdown restrictions, not a sustained change. In 2021, the global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion rebounded by nearly 6%, returning close to worrying pre-pandemic levels.

Research shows that global carbon dioxide emissions are still rising but may at least reach level ground, with CO2 from energy only increasing by 0.9% in 2022 despite the turmoil in energy markets caused by the Russo-Ukrainian War.

Unfortunately, though, a 7% reduction is needed each year to halve emissions within this decade, with biologist Hans-Otto Pörtner saying: “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.”


The UK entered a six-month recession in 2020. The economy plunged by 20% between April and June 2020 as businesses closed and people stayed home.

However, as businesses and consumers adapted to restrictions, the second and third wave in autumn 2020 and winter 2020/21, respectively, did not lead to as much of a decline in economic activity.

At the time, the ONS said: “This is the largest quarterly contraction in the UK economy since ONS quarterly records began in 1955, and reflects the ongoing public health restrictions and forms of voluntary social distancing that have been put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

In 2023, the UK’s economy grew by 0.2% - faster than expected - in the second quarter, and data also showed that the country may avoid another recession. In the Spring Budget announcement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the economy is forecast to grow by 1.8% in 2024 and 2.5% in 2025.

Social Media

Social media engagement increased by 61% between March 2020 and May 2020, when people were made to stay at home during the first wave of the coronavirus and use their smartphones to connect with friends and family.

Firstly, social media platform TikTok can thank the pandemic for its success. Despite launching in 2016, it was the third fastest-growing brand of 2020 when it became the birthplace of many global trends, including dance challenges, push-up challenges, and the infamous ‘head clap challenge.’

TikTok’s growth was beaten by video chat platform Zoom - which was used across the globe for parties, quizzes, and business meetings - and streaming service Peacock.

Social media messaging platform Whatsapp and multiple delivery services, including DoorDash and Instacart, were also among the brands to see significant growth in 2020 due to people staying at home.


(Image Source: Marketing Charts)

Across all stages of the pandemic, WhatsApp was the social media app experiencing the greatest gains, with a 40% increase in usage, as people wanted to stay connected with those they couldn’t see in person.


Business closures

The UK’s first national lockdown, which saw most businesses close their doors, started in March 2020 and lasted over three months.

Similar restrictions took place worldwide, resulting in the loss of equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs in terms of global working hours compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.

These working-hour losses in 2020 were approximately four times greater than those during the global financial crisis of 2008/2009, referred to as ‘The Great Recession.’

The pandemic also welcomed a substantial shift for hybrid- and remote-workers. In 2019, 12% of the UK workforce worked at least one day from home, and only 5% worked mainly from home. However, by June 2020, 11% worked from home at least one day a week, and 38% worked from home exclusively.

Following the end of pandemic restrictions, these numbers have gradually decreased but remain higher than pre-pandemic levels. In September 2022, 22% of the Great Britain workforce had worked at least one day from home in the previous week, and 13% worked from home exclusively.

The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation, also known as The Great Reshuffle, is an ongoing economic trend in which employees have voluntarily resigned from their jobs simultaneously, beginning in early 2021 during the pandemic.

Most likely to quit have been hospitality, healthcare, and education workers. The most mentioned reasons for resigning include:

  • Wage stagnation despite rising living costs
  • Limited opportunities for career advancement
  • Hostile work environments
  • Lack of benefits
  • Inflexible hybrid and remote working policies
  • Job dissatisfaction

However, workforce participation in some regions, including the USA, has returned to or even exceeded the pre-pandemic rate, which suggests that instead of remaining out of the workforce, many workers have been simply swapping jobs - which is why it’s also known as The Great Reshuffle.

Anthony Klotz, a University College London’s School of Management professor, predicts that 2023 will see the end of the Great Resignation with the quit rate set to level out.


The five industries most affected by COVID-19 between 2 January 2020 and 15 January 2022 were Airlines, Automobiles, Energy Equipment and Services, Hotels, Restaurants and Leisure, and Specialty Retail.

The five industries least impacted were Communications Equipment, Health Care Equipment and Supplies, Life Science Tools and Services, Pharmaceuticals, and Real Estate Investment Trusts.

Meanwhile, the number of UK start-ups grew by 22% during the pandemic, and more than £20 billion could be added to the nation’s economy in the future thanks to these additional businesses.


On 17 March 2020, then-Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced that British nationals were advised against non-essential foreign travel for 30 days, which was later extended indefinitely. \

However, against all expectations, most of the travel companies trading in 2019 survived the pandemic, and the aviation industry became profitable in 2023 for the first time since before the pandemic.

On another positive note, the pandemic gave authorities time to reconsider the value of mass tourism and introduce measures to stop overtourism. In 2024, Venice will introduce a long-threatened entry fee for day-trippers to help prevent overcrowding in the city.

Meanwhile, Amsterdam’s city hall released a statement: “We do not want to go back to what we saw before the pandemic, where massive crowds in the Red Light District and the city’s entertainment areas caused a nuisance to residents.”

Some destinations, however, can’t wait to welcome tourists back, with Siem Reap in Cambodia spending £115 million on infrastructural improvements during lockdown with aims to attract 7.5 million foreign visitors a year by 2035.

Business travel on airlines is still below pre-pandemic levels and is predicted not to recover.


Mental health

Loneliness, fear of infection, grief of a loved one, financial issues, and the unknowns of the economy are all factors that affected people’s mental health throughout the pandemic when government restrictions stopped them from seeing their family and friends or going to work.

The worldwide prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25% in 2020, the first year of the pandemic.

However, this must be accompanied by a worldwide investment in mental health services. In 2020, governments across the globe only spent just over 2% of their overall health budgets on mental health.

By the end of 2021, the situation had somewhat improved, but too many people still remain unable to get the care and support they need for pre-existing and newly developed mental health conditions.

Dévora Kestel, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use at WHO, said:” While the pandemic has generated interest in and concern for mental health, it has also revealed historical under-investment in mental health services. Countries must act urgently to ensure that mental health support is available to all.”

Health care burnout

In the early days of the pandemic, healthcare employees were praised as heroes and honored with military flyovers, fire department drive-bys, meal donations, and colorful signs expressing thanks.


(Image Source: Unsplash)

However, the recognition, whilst appreciated, didn’t fix the burnout. In October 2021, a survey by the Royal College of Nursing showed that 57% of respondents were either thinking about leaving or actively planning to leave their jobs as nursing staff. The primary factors were feeling undervalued, exhausted, and unable to give adequate care.

Medical advancements

Amazingly, the COVID-19 vaccine development took 11 months, humbling the five-year record for the mumps vaccine. The work previously done with mRNA vaccines was a significant factor in the timely development.

This led to advancements across multiple scientific fronts, which means developers and researchers are in a much better position to develop vaccines rapidly and respond better to future epidemics and pandemics.

Paul Goepfert, MD, director of the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic at UAB Hospital, said: “We demonstrated that we can quickly test drugs to help treat patients in the outpatient and hospitalized settings. The learned lessons can apply to future infectious and even non-infectious diseases.


Despite the noticeable detrimental effects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the economy, poverty, and the workforce, it is also important to remember the positives. The pandemic resulted in much-needed medical advancements, the rise of beneficial education technology, and the fixing of over-tourism.

As our society continues to adapt to changes, we must remember how far we have come since March 2020 and be glad we made it through the first pandemic of the 21st century.

Discussion (20)

Not yet any reply