The field of social work is broad and encompasses a large number of separate occupations and specializations. However, all of those professionals are working together towards the greater good by addressing some of society’s biggest concerns. All social workers learn about these major problems during their education, yet many don’t follow up with the latest news to stay on top of every political news story or fact report that is relevant to their field.
Below, we provide an overview of the main stats that reflect the current state of the primary challenges which are continually confronted and addressed by social workers worldwide.
1. Youth Health & Development
Ensuring the healthy and safe development of all children is one of the top agendas for every social worker. Depression is one of the leading causes of concern because almost 15% of the adolescent population has experienced major depressive episodes, and millions more are dealing with mild depression. Childhood obesity, a condition that affects an estimated 13.7 million children in the US is another major problem that social workers try to combat. If this inspires you to pursue a career in social work, be sure to check out this list of must-read school social work books afterward.
2. Addressing Healthcare Shortages
An estimated 60 million Americans are dealing with a double-sided blow to their safety and well-being – they lack access to healthcare and they’re exposed to dangerous environments, poverty, and discrimination which makes their situation even worse. Social workers who work in fields related to public health actively work to ensure that all of their clients have access to health insurance and medical care for any untreated disorders or diseases they may have.
3. Ending Homelessness
During the course of a typical year, roughly 1.5 million Americans will be homeless for at least one night, while a significant percentage of them will be stuck living out of their vehicles or on the streets for many weeks. According to the Urban Housing Development’s Annual Homeless Assessment, there are roughly half a million homeless people in the United States at any given moment. To combat this issue, social workers are often tasked with helping their client obtain adequate housing or temporary shelter.
4. Fighting Drug Addiction
Statistics published within the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated that nearly 20 million Americans are battling substance abuse and drug addiction problems. Roughly 75% of those individuals are dealing with some level of alcohol addiction. As a result, social workers often encounter cases that require the implementation of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program and other forms of intervention that help break the destructive and habitual cycle.
5. Reducing Economic Inequality
Wage inequality in the United States has increased substantially during the past four decades, leading to a situation in which the average CEO earns roughly 24 times more than the average worker. Of course, such widespread inequality can lead to a variety of societal problems that social workers need to actively assess and address. Social workers also work to alleviate the pressure created by the gender wage gaps, occupational sex segregation, racial discrimination, gaps in education, childhood poverty, residential segregation, and other factors that contribute towards economic inequality.
6. Stopping Domestic Violence
Roughly 33% of women and 25% of men have reported experiencing some form of physical abuse or stalking by a partner or family member at some point within their lifetime. By some estimates, an average of 20 people per minute are physically abused, adding up to a total of 10 million reported victims per year in the United States. Social workers strive to address this common issue that creates bad memories, affects development, and leads to incarceration, divorce, and other family tribulations.
7. Promoting Equal Opportunity
Social workers are educated on how to help marginalized groups achieve career goals and persist through unfair conditions in order to level the often-unfair playing field that exists in many industries and social activities. Equal opportunity promotes more economic diversity, which ultimately leads to a more stable economy and reduced crime rates as impoverished people obtain more comfortable lifestyles that promote peace and prosperity.
Social Work is One of Society’s Most Important Professions
Of course, when you add up the accumulative effect that social workers have by working towards implementing solutions for all of the problems mentioned above, it’s not surprising that many universities are pushing to close the gap that is being left by retiring social workers. Anyone who is considering a career in social work should know that their efforts will be more than just a career that pays a salary – they’re contributing towards a better reality for their current communities and future generations.