What Is the Definition of “social Ill?”

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A “social ill” is a term synonymous with the phrase “social problem” or “social issue.” A social problem exists when a condition is undesirable to some members of a community, according to Syracuse University. Examples of some social ills include crime, bullying, racism, delinquency, discrimination, family disintegration, drug addiction, poverty and homelessness.

Some social problems may be less drastic, but still troublesome. Teenagers who play loud music in a public park do not necessarily harm someone, but some groups may see this behavior as undesirable in a peaceful neighborhood park. Teens having sex may not seem serious, but the consequences of such actions mean teen pregnancies that cause poverty and public welfare issues in the future.

Social ills are perceived to be problems solvable through public policy initiatives. Drug abuse, domestic violence and bullying can be assessed as local, state, federal or international problems. Legislation, laws and ordinances take steps to alleviate social ills once the problems are debated in public policy forums.

The University of Maryland’s online sociology course tutorial lists more than 100 contemporary social problems from abortion to voting rights restrictions. Some social ills such as identity theft, global warming and home foreclosures came about with modern technology. Other social problems like gun rights, child labor and classism have existed for centuries.