BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health and Social Change



Broadly conceptualized, social change represents any change in social relations. Like change in general, it is in constant existence in our societies. However, the distinction between social change and other forms of change in the society is that the former is significant and encompasses processes that modify the social structure while the latter serves primarily to maintain the social structure. More specifically, sociologists define social change as any alteration over time in social behavior systems and cultural values or norms that result in significant social consequences and impact society prominently.

Some social changes that have shown to have significant long‐term effects in the world include industrial revolution, abolition of slavery, technological advancement and the feminist movement. In our societies, social change may occur for various reasons and result from a number of sources. Some of these sources include research and information, diffusion, immigration and contact with other societies; changes in the ecosystem which results in loss of natural resources or emergence of diseases, technological change characterised by industrial revolution; and population growth. In addition to the above sources, social movements have also played vital roles in inspiring dissatisfied members of a society to bring about social change. These movements may be ideological, economic, religious and political in nature and are perpetuated by protests and activism and sometimes, violence.

In order to understand and explain patterns and causes of social change, three theories are used by sociologists and they include: Evolutionary, Functionalist, and Conflict theories of change. These theories all acknowledge that the first response to social movements is resistance, particularly when people with dissimilar interests feel threatened by potential changes.

There are several peculiarities with social change. These changes may happen all the time and are almost always constant; an example being the rate at which technology advancement occurs. On the other hand, some other changes, such as structural or systematic shifts in norms and values, are much slower in occurrence. Social change may be deliberate and intentional or completely unexpected and unplanned; for one, developed societies, like as the United States, actively promote many kinds of change which are usually controversial. In general, some changes are more significant than others; changes in trends and fashions, although very obvious and prominent, are much less significant compared to major inventions and the advancement of technology.

Transitions in the labour market and social systems can either be relieving or burdensome on people’s economic security, social adaptability and psychology. This consequence of social change  directly affects mental health by causing social stress.

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