The COVID-19 pandemic has been disrupting the daily lives of people across the world, causing a major concern for social relationships and life satisfaction. In South Korea, the government has implemented strict social distancing, quarantine, and restriction of social gatherings and outdoor activities. Given all unusual demands imposed by external environments, it is important to examine how people change altered the unusual environments. In the present study, we aimed to explore this by categorizing the changes in social relationships and examine whether there is a difference in life satisfaction according to the typed group during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Kora.
The present study used data from the Korean National Statistical Office (KNSO), and the analytical sample for this study consisted of 34,214 individuals over the age of 19 in South Korea. We conduct a Latent Class Analysis (LCA) by measuring whether there have been changes in relationships with family members, relatives, neighbors, friends, colleagues, members of religious groups, etc. due to the impact of COVID-19. After deriving a Latent group, the socio-demographic characteristics (i.e., gender, age group, economic activity status, marital status, number of household members, household income) that affect an individual's belonging to a specific type are verified through R3STEP.
The type of relationship change during the COVID-19 pandemic was divided into three different groups that have been separated: 'relationship maintenance cluster (50.8%)', 'private relationship-changed cluster (31.2%)', and 'relationship break cluster (18.0%)'. The relationship maintenance cluster is a group in which there is no change in relationships with people prior to the COVID-19, the private relationship-changed cluster is a group in which private relationships such as family, relatives, and friends have become distant, and the relationship break cluster is a group that has experienced overall relationship severance.
As a result of examining the influencing factors according to demographic characteristics, the elderly had a significantly higher probability of belonging to the private relationship-changed cluster than the non-elderly and had difficulties in relationships, and the young people were more likely to belong to the relationship maintenance cluster. There was no significant change in relationships when the number of household members was large, and those with jobs experienced more disconnection. The relationship maintenance cluster had the highest life satisfaction, and the personal relationship-changed cluster had the lowest life satisfaction and was statistically significant.
Conclusions and Implications
Many people were experiencing changes in their relationships due to COVID-19. Considering that changes in relationships affect life satisfaction, it can be seen that difficulties in relationships should be treated more seriously as a new social risk. In particular, it suggests the need for attention and coping with the difficulties in relationships experienced by the elderly both during the pandemic and the recovery period.