Corona crisis places social quality under pressure

Monday 08 June 2020

Family that aren’t allowed to visit anymore. Work from clients that can’t take place because of measures against the spread of corona. Closed doors at the sports club. Changes to an internship. “Young or old, the coronavirus is affecting everyone,” says Jolanda Tuinstra, Professor of applied sciences in Social Quality at NHL Stenden. “It’s about restrictions in the broadest sense that prevent you from undertaking social relationships, it doesn’t matter whether they be at work, at choir practice or on the street.”

Jolanda Tuinstra

The measures in place against the coronavirus have a huge impact on our daily lives, and although the focus in the media is on the social isolation of vulnerable groups, professor of applied sciences Jolanda Tuinstra observes that the pandemic is affecting everyone. “Consider those people that have no income at the moment. That just have to watch their company going out of business. Or those who can no longer be an informal carer for their father or mother. Social quality is under enormous pressure.”

Through her professorship, the new professor of applied sciences is researching the effects of the coronavirus on social quality. “Social quality is the degree in which people can participate in society, in a way that suits them and enhances their well-being,” explains Tuinstra. “With this, we consider four important conditions. The first is that social quality is associated with socio-economic security: are you assured of a home, purposeful daily activities and sufficient income? The second condition is social inclusion: can you participate in society? The third is social cohesion: are you connected to the people around you and in your community? And the final condition is social empowerment: do you have opportunities to develop and use your talents?”

The professor sees that, in practice, the corona crisis affects all four of these conditions. “Take for instance just the articles in the papers about an economic crisis. How many people are currently wondering if they will soon still be in a job?” And the other three conditions are also suffering. “We’re being limited in the opportunities we have to participate in society because we have to stay at home as much as possible. The question many people are asking is how they can still matter at times like this.”

Very quickly, observes the professor, the concepts of social distancing and physical distancing become confused. “We have to avoid physical contact, but strengthen our social contacts,” argues Tuinstra. “We’re social beings and social contact is good for our health, makes us feel happier, comforts us and makes us human.” Fortunately, Tuinstra sees all kinds of wonderful projects being initiated in which people are finding creative ways of making contact and giving each other attention. “That makes me feel really hopeful,” she says. “This corona crisis is proving how incredibly strong our social resilience is – it’s giving social quality a boost.’

Jolanda Tuinstra is professor of applied sciences in Social Quality at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences, and focuses on individual and collective quality of life, and the interaction between formal and informal relationships.