Is Covid-19 changing our relationships?
As many countries around the world begin to emerge from lockdown, what can we learn from how people’s relationships and friendships have fared in China, where coronavirus began?
The Covid-19 pandemic has reshaped our personal relationships in unprecedented ways, forcing us to live closer together with some people and further apart from others. Life in lockdown has necessitated close, constant contact with our families and partners, but social distancing measures have isolated us from our friends and wider communities.
Both in China, which was the first country in the world to go into full lockdown when the virus emerged there, and in Hong Kong – where schools closed, shops were shuttered, and employees sent home – the virus has been brought under control and life has returned to some semblance of normality. But the pandemic has left some cracks in family relationships.
Most notably the high-pressure environment of confinement, combined with the financial stress brought about by a Covid-19 burdened economy, has led to a rise in marital conflict, according to Susanne Choi, a sociologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
This is most evident in a spike in divorce rates. In the city of Xi’an in northwest China’s Shaanxi province, marriage registration offices saw an unprecedented number of divorce requests when they re-opened in March. Online, the hashtag “Xi’an divorce appointment explosion” has gained 32 million reads on the social media platform Weibo.
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