Elections, Politics, and Mental Health

Election & Stress: Do elections really affect mental health?

With the arrival of the internet and social media, more and more people from younger age groups have taken interest and started participating in politics whether voluntarily or involuntarily. Beyond the typical TV news and daily newspaper coverage, political campaigns, debates, and events have increasingly become prevalent in our everyday lives through platforms we have relied on—on instant messaging services such as WhatsApp, and social media such as Twitter and Instagram.

What do the studies/researches say?

One daily diary-based study conducted in 2016 by Roche and Jacobson on college students during the period of the US 2016 elections has shown that in the days before and after the election, there is a significant jump in negative activated emotions. As a result of the election period, stress levels also significantly increased alongside cases of bad sleep quality. Emotions experienced during these tense moments have also been believed to lead to increased occurrences of anxiety, however for the most part these are believed to last only for a short-term.It is also worth noting that Roche and Jacobson’s study also discovered that emotions or reactions such as fear and marginalisation that comes as a part of political campaigns are also significantly influential and does not seem to subside as fast due to the uncertainty in the future.

Another study conducted by DeJonckheere et al. (2018) had drawn a similar general conclusion, in which the emotional responses caused by the political events leading up to the election have significantly stimulated levels of stress and anxiety to the point in which it affects how people perform their usual daily routines. Those who did not experience any changes in their mental and physical health tend to think that the effects of the election have not yet affected them and do not worry about politics.

Insights from another study conducted by San Francisco State University have also observed that results of 2016 US elections have impacted young adults significantly to the point in which some exhibit symptoms similar to those which can be found in someone experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A different perspective: how your health’s state can affect your participation

Beyond the analysis on how election prospects and results can affect a person’s mental health, there has also been a research that looks into the other side of things—how can one’s state of health affect their electoral participation?

A study by Couture and Breux in 2017 looked into the Canadian elections at both national and local levels and discovered that the state of a person’s mental health can have a significant impact on their probability of turning up to vote on the election. From the data gathered in the study, those whose mental health are in relatively worse condition were less likely to not vote. This effect is further emphasized with those who are not usually involved or into politics, which has a tendency to cause them to withdraw from politics in general as a result.

Through these studies, it can be seen that election season and politics in general can influence our mental health if we do not look after ourselves carefully during tense periods. With how interconnected our lives have become in the past decade with the internet, it is important to know when to take a step back from all the commotion to ensure we have the optimal mindset to vote and to face the results that comes from the election too.


Learn more about depression and anxiety at Seribu Tujuan

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