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© Borgis - New Medicine 1/2001, s. 66-68
István Vingender
Social problems in Hungary
Department of Social Sciences and Addictology Semmelweis University (Hungary)
The Author looks at the current disturbed state of Hungarian society, and suggests that successive and rapid socio-political changes in the culture have been largely responsible for this. He discusses research into the advantages and disadvantages of organised sports in offering protection against deviant behaviour in a young people.
Key words: social problems, Hungary.

No society can be free of deviant behaviour. However, in some societies it may be said to be at an accepTable level, as it can be treated. In others, the level is too high. Hungarian society is one of these latter, the level being so high that it affects the lives of those who are not themselves deviant.
The situation is characterised by:
1. A high level of `traditional´ deviations - alcoholism, suicide, and mental illness.
2. Rapidly-developing `new´ deviations - crime, sexual deviations, and addictions.
3. Links which cause one form of behaviour to turn into or attract another.
The population of Hungary is approximately 10500000. The suicide rate is 35 per 1000 this used to be 50, the figure reducing due to an increase in alcoholism. Jellineck´s formula reveals that 1 adult in 8 is alcoholic, and the male mortality due to alcoholism is the highest in Europe.
Narcotics have been tried by 500000 young people, are regulary used by 250000, and 50000 are drug-dependent. Socio-psychiatric research reveals that every fourth adult in Hungary is neurotic, and more than 500000 crimes are recorded every year. The incidence of deviant behaviour is very high, and increasing annually. Why should Hungary be so affected?
The level of deviancy is usually explained by the theory of anomie, defined as behaviour lacking usual social standards. Under anomic social conditions, the rate of deviancy increases, but reduces with social integration. Hungary suffers permanent anomie, predominantly because of social, cultural, and political changes. The disintegration of a macro society has the same effect on deviancy as that of a micro society. The values of the first determine the values of the second, the social values and norms becoming a part of the individual psyche. In this paper we look at the most important social institutions, and why they affect life in Hungary in this way.
Deviancy specific features in Hungarian society
Rapid and intensive social changes have had a deep impact on Hungarian society. The consequences show in the structure, in the correlation between social groups, and in the functioning of society.
Ferenc Erdei, a sociologist, has described Hungary between the two World Wars as a dual society. This was due to delayed social development, resulting in both a feudal social structure and an emerging bourgeois society operating at the same time. The social groups involved confrinted one another in their social, political, and economic ideas. The cultural differences between them also contributed to tension, resulting in social segregation, discrimination, and a lack of identity. Thus, both groups faced two cultures, and the fact interiorised values were neither sTable nor unequivocal. This in turn forced a selective state and uncertainty in social intercourse.
From the fifties, the economic foundations of these two groups were eliminated by administrative means, and their cultural elements were eliminated politically. A structure without a social foundation was accompanied by values and norms that were alien to the majority. In order to aid their adoption, the values were distorted and simplified, itself a cause of unrest. As a result, three was a loss of cultural identity.
Since then, the major part of society has accepted these values in part, but this has given a feeling of unpredictability and uncertainty. This has been worsened by the fact that after a further change in society, the partly-accepted norms were seen to be inadequate. People had to disavow sections of their lives.
The changes imposed on Hungarian society after the Second World War meant that people found themselves in new and often unsuiTable social positions despite their own efforts, positions conficting with the few unchanged parts of the social structure, and leading to a loss of identity.
The end result of all of the above has been that the society has found itself frozen in what may be called a state of ill-health.
Hungarian society has always lived in a traditional manner, in a paternalistic power-centred environment loaded with authoritarian politics. The changes have meant that many of these values have been reversed, and emancipation from an almost feudal submission took place in a very short time, leaving a society without standards. Social inequality after the change of regime has resulted in a depressed attitude, in which people are suspicious of authority, property, achievements, and the social status resulting from these. People have, as a further result, tended to give up, and to compensate against or disregard the norms.
The church has been weakened by several factors, being divided, weak within society, and faced with the growth sects rather than the traditional religious groups.
The family has been disorganised and disintegrated by changes too, shown by the increasing number of divorces, the decline in formal marriage, the reduction in the birth rate, an increase in marital problems, and an inability to align the traditional values with the modern environment.
Schools have also found ambivalent problems. Despite high standards of qualifications, the schools have contributed to deviance by being selective, authoritarian (which deprives students of autonomy), offering an example of a rigid power structure, out-of-date formats and contents in lessons, and unrealised responsibilities such as personality development ih which they cannot achieve a sTable role due to the sharing, of these activities with the political arena. The teachers also suffer from these problems, and are thus ill-equipped to offer help.
Contemporary communities are moving away from normal friendships and community life, to become group-like, and thus excluding those who `don´t fit´ the group requirements. Hierarchical structures within groups mean subordination, and since the older members tend to be more deviant, their attitudes to (for example) drug-taking becomes a norm for the whole group.
The culture of the young, in particular, is characterised by mechanical imitative behaviour and tastes in areas such as entertainment, sexual activity, and fashions. Their lives threfore have a reactive character, and lack purpose.
Sport is a sub-system of society which for many reasons is capable of assisting social integration and of reducing anomie. It can therefore mitigate the incidence of drug consumption and decrease social integration at a micro-level, although it can have adverse effects at a macro-level.
We must therefore ask:
- do sports have a disintegrating effect on society,
- if so, where can this effect be seen,
- when: during performance, or after?
Sport is a selective system preferring certain social spheres. This means that sporting activities do not always conform to the norms. Modernisation in sports proceeds differently from other areas of society, meaning that guidance in sports does not always fit with what society requires.
The social system within the sporting world is hierarchical, and can therefore produce dysfunctional social relations. Conflicts between, for example, personal versus organisational interests can cause conflicts in both the individual and the sporting structure.
The factors leading to the use of drugs in society are generally well-known, and are often exacerbated in sporting organisations:
- accessibility of drugs,
- social constraints which promote deviancy,
- segregation from norms, e.g.: sexual contacts,
- lack of control in jobs,
- very low or very high incomes,

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1. Jelentés a magyarországi kábítószer-helyzetrol. (Report on the situation of narcotics in Hungary. In ISM, Budapest, 1999). 2. Elekes As, Paksi B.: „Középiskolások droghasználata és alkoholfogyasztása Magyarországon ” (The use of drugs and alcohol consumption among secondary-school children in Hungary). In ESPAD. 3. Grezsa F.: „Nemzeti mentálhigiénés stratégia és program ”. (National strategy and programme in mental hygiene). In: Mentálhigiéné és pszichoszomatika 1999, 1-2. 4. Rácz J., Vingender I. (ed.): „A fobb addikciók (alkoholizmus, dohányzás, drogabúzus) szerepe Magyarországon a morbiditásban - mortalitásban és a népesség fogyatkozásában ”. (The role of main additions, <alcoholism, smoking, drug abuses> in morbidity - mortality and in the decrease of the population in Hungary. A statistical analysis for Parliament). In: Statisztikai elemzés az Országgyulés tájékoztatására. OAI. Budapest 1998, 70. 5. Sipos K., Vingender I.: „Általános iskolai és középiskolai tanulók drogfogyasztó magatartásának és attitüdjeinek családi háttértényezoitol ”. (The background family factors of the drug-consuming attitudes and behaviour of children of general and secondary schools). In: Kornél Sipos (ed.): Drogmegelozés az iskolában Magyar Testnevelési Egyetem Továbbképzo Központ. (Drug prevention in schools Centre for Extension Courses Hungarian University of Physical Education). Budapest 1995, 248-281. 6. Sipos K., Vingender I.: „Aszüloi depriváció hatása iskoláskorú fiatalok drogfogyasztó magatartásának kialakulására. (The impact of parental deprivation on the development of drug-consuming comportment of school children). In Kornél Sipos (ed.): Drogmegelözés az iskolában Magyar Testnevelési Egyetem Továbbképzo Központ. (Drug prevention in schools Centre for Extension Courses Hungarian University of Physical Education). Budapest 1995, 282-2310. 7. Vingender I.: „Közösség és drogfogyasztás. A kortárs közösségek hatása az iskola s korú fiatalok drogfogyasztó magatartására. Szenvedélybetegségek. (Community and drug consumption. The impact of contemporary communities upon the drug-consuming habits of school-age children. Addictologia Hungarica), 1998, 3:164-175. 8. Wilbert, Leonard: The influence of physical activity and theoretically relevant variables in the use of drugs: The deterrence hypothesis revisited. Journal of Sport Behaviour. 1998, 4:421-435.
New Medicine 1/2001
Strona internetowa czasopisma New Medicine