April 2025: Today, I attended my friend’s wedding, my college classes, my doctor’s appointment and even shopped clothes (some of it actually at the same time!). When social distancing was first introduced in 2020 it meant ‘physical’ distancing. However, now in 2025, this has come to mean distancing yourself from the fun which friends and relatives bring (social distancing in the true sense).
People walking away from each other on side-walks? Empty movie theatres? Masked smiles? Kindergarten kids beginning school over Google Meet? This does paint a sad story. In figure 1, you can see the impact of the first wave of COVID-19 on mental health of Canadians. Subsequent wave has had greater impact with winters making it even worse. Physical distancing has been cited as a common reason other than addiction, drugs and alcohol. The prevalence of clinically diagnosed depression ranges from 23-27% in the general population in 2020. Compare that to prevalence of 3.4% in 2017!
The world has now been in pandemic mode for more than 5 years. From 2.8 million global deaths in April 2021, to the devastating toll by 2025, things did turn out similar to the first prediction from the top as seen in a 2020 poster (figure 2).
How has the way of life changed over last 5 years?
- Higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression are stemming up from social isolation, economic instability and loss of work-life balance (as predicted by Survey XII: Digital New Normal 2025 – After the Outbreak).
- Economic inequality has widened: the tech-savvy people have fared much better, so have those skilled in bringing technology to connect institutions and people (as predicted by the Pew Research Center in 2021).
- Erosion of privacy: since all our activities can now be tracked on the internet, artificial intelligence can control us easily. This also has been the reason for misinformation to spread like a wild fire (as predicted by the Pew Research Center in 2021).
- Loss of freedom of movement: Lockdowns have become a new normal. Our movements are now monitored by such accuracy and governed by such a complex set of rules that most have given up on interactions beyond the household.
- The ‘tele everything’ era: from schools, universities, doctor appointments to court rooms, in person communications have zeroed down. Emotions like empathy, cheerfulness are irrelevant, ‘amplifying the best and worst of human nature’ (cited from ‘Survey XII: Digital New Normal 2025 – After the Outbreak’)
Some good things that 2025 has ‘unintentionally’ brought along:
- Diagnosing COVID now takes just a couple of minutes and is possible in all institutions. Imagine the long waiting times for COVID testing in 2021!
- Improved quality of air: With traffic decreasing every year, pollutant levels in the air have also declined
- Local manufacturing has been a success: It started with vaccines in 2021 but several other commodities now rely on local supply chains.
- Raising kids, growing food, exercise and building houses is also now considered as ‘work’
Ok, come back to today. Rethink your life now that we are still in 2021. Thank you for reaching the end of this work of fiction. We thought to de’stress’ you in a fun way. At Refine Naturals: We believe “You Deserve Better than FINE!”
- COVID Continues to Take Heavy Toll on Canadians’ Mental Health [Internet]. Ipsos [cited 2021 Apr 7];Available from: https://www.ipsos.com/en-ca/covid-continues-take-heavy-toll-canadians-mental-health
- Bueno-Notivol J, Gracia-García P, Olaya B, Lasheras I, López-Antón R, Santabárbara J. Prevalence of depression during the COVID-19 outbreak: A meta-analysis of community-based studies. Int J Clin Health Psychol 2021;21(1):100196.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) [Internet]. Google News [cited 2021 Apr 7];Available from: https://news.google.com/covid19/map?hl=en-CA&gl=CA&ceid=CA:en
- Scudellari M. How the pandemic might play out in 2021 and beyond. Nature 2020;584(7819):22–5.
- Survey XII: Digital New Normal 2025 – After the Outbreak – Imagining the Internet [Internet]. [cited 2021 Apr 7];Available from: https://www.elon.edu/u/imagining/surveys/xii-2021/post-covid-new-normal-2025/
- Anderson J, Rainie L, Vogels E. Experts Say the ‘New Normal’ in 2025 Will Be Far More Tech-Driven, Presenting More Big Challenges [Internet]. Pew Res. Cent. Internet Sci. Tech2021 [cited 2021 Apr 7];Available from: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/02/18/experts-say-the-new-normal-in-2025-will-be-far-more-tech-driven-presenting-more-big-challenges/