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Study: Politics really bad for your health

"Millions of American adults have contemplated suicide because of politics. That is a serious health problem."

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woman wearing mask in front of USA flag elections during covid

By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

Politics really does make people feel sick, according to a new health study.

Millions of people reckon politics exact a chronic toll on their health, according to research.

via GIPHY

They say it has caused them stress, loss of sleep, fractured relationships and more. Alarmingly, one in twenty say it has left them feeling suicidal.

Following our leaders has never been easier - whether scrolling social media, reading websites, listening to podcasts or watching the news.

But all the jockeying for power is having a terrible effect on public wellbeing - and even a change in party does not help.

The findings are based on a 32 question survey of Americans carried out twice - two weeks prior to the 2020 election and two weeks after.

What is more, they mirrored the results of the same study - three years earlier.

Lead author Professor Kevin Smith, of the University of Nebraska, said: "This second round of surveys pretty conclusively demonstrates the first survey was not out of leftfield - that what we found in that first survey really is indicative of what many Americans are experiencing.

"It is also unpleasant to think in that span of time, nothing changed. A huge chunk of American adults genuinely perceive politics is exacting a serious toll on their social, their psychological and even their physical health."

The analysis, published in the journal PLOS One, shows the phenomenon applied to both Donald Trump - and Joe Biden.

That the results remained mostly stable after nearly four years is cause for concern, Prof Smith said.

Similar to the earlier findings, the 2020 surveys found four in ten Americans identified politics as a significant source of stress.

Additionally, between a fifth and a third - 50 to 85 million- blamed politics for causing fatigue, feelings of anger, loss of temper and triggering compulsive behaviors.

About a quarter reported they had given serious consideration to moving because of politics.

close up of conference meeting microphones and businessman
(ESB Professional/ Shutterstock)

Prof Smith and colleagues first measured the effects of the political climate on Americans' physical, social, mental and emotional health in 2017.

They repeated the survey with the same group of people both before and after the election to see if the outcome - whatever it ended up being - would recast people’s perceptions.

Prof Smith said: "We wondered if a change in presidency, which indeed was the case, would shift attitudes, and the short answer is no.

"If anything, the costs that people perceive politics is exacting on their health increased a little bit after the election."

Most stunning was the repeated finding that five percent of Americans blame politics for having suicidal thoughts.

Prof Smith said: "One in 20 adults has contemplated suicide because of politics.

"That showed up in the first survey in 2017, and we wondered if it was a statistical artifact.

"But in the two surveys since, we found exactly the same thing, so millions of American adults have contemplated suicide because of politics. That is a serious health problem."

Adults who were most likely to be negatively affected by politics were younger, more often Democratic-leaning, more interested in politics and more politically engaged.

Prof Smith said: "If there is a profile of a person who is more likely to experience these effects from politics, it is people with those traits."

Besides pointing to a possible health crisis, it could be a bad recipe for democracy.

Warned Prof Smith: "There is potential for a demobilization effect here. If people view politics as so conflictual, and potentially a threat to their own wellbeing, they will say 'heck with it, I don't want to get involved.'

"And democracies depend on participation. We need civically-engaged citizens."

He plans to explore how the effects can be reduced in future research.
Becoming more politically knowledgeable is one suggestion.

Prof Smith added: "People who were more politically knowledgeable were less likely to report these negative outcomes.

"Something I would really like to look at would be if you took somebody who is politically interested, but not particularly politically knowledgeable, and they were given information about the political system, would that reduce these negative costs of politics?

"That could be a positive outcome of civic education that has never been considered before."

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