US politics really make people sick, study finds

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LINCOLN, Neb. — Talking about politics tends to give many people a searing headache. Now, a new study confirms that the American political scene really does harm a person’s overall health.

A University of Nebraska researcher notes that four in 10 people cite politics as one of the biggest stressors in their lives. Many add that the subject makes them lose sleep and breaks up their relationships. Alarmingly, one in 20 people even say that thinking and discussing politics makes them suicidal.

Professor Kevin Smith says it has never been easier to follow the movements of political leaders, thanks to social media, online websites, podcasts and the streaming television news cycle. However, all maneuvers for power have a terrible effect on public welfare – so much so that even a change of party doesn’t help.

Changing president does not help

The findings come from the results of a 32-question survey of Americans conducted two weeks before the 2020 election and two weeks after. The findings mirror an earlier survey conducted in 2017.

“This second round of surveys demonstrates quite conclusively that the first survey was not out of left field – that what we found in this first survey is really indicative of what many Americans are going through,” says the professor. Smith in a university outing.

“It’s also unpleasant to think that during this time, nothing has changed. A large portion of American adults sincerely perceive that politics takes a heavy toll on their social, psychological, and even physical health.

The analysis, published in the journal PLOS ONE, shows that the phenomenon applies to both the Donald Trump and Joe Biden administrations.

Professor Smith says the fact that the results have remained mostly stable after almost four years is cause for concern. Similar to previous findings, 50 to 85 million people blame politics for causing fatigue, feelings of anger, loss of temper, and triggering compulsive behaviors.

About a quarter said they had seriously considered moving because of politics in their state.

“We wondered if a change of presidency, which indeed it did, would change attitudes, and the short answer is no,” notes Professor Smith. “In fact, the costs people perceive of politics on their health increased quite a bit after the election.”

“One in 20 adults has considered suicide because of politics,” adds the researcher. “It came up in the first survey in 2017, and we wondered if it was a statistical artifact. But in both surveys since then, we’ve found the exact same thing, so millions of American adults have considered suicide because of politics. It’s a serious health issue.”

Who does politics hurt the most?

The study finds that those most likely to feel pressure from politics are younger, leaner Democrats, show more interest in politics and are more engaged in political causes.

“If there’s one profile of a person who is more likely to feel these effects of politics, it’s people with these traits,” Smith says.

In addition to signaling a possible health crisis, the results could also be a bad sign for democracy, according to the study’s author.

“There’s a potential for a demobilization effect here,” Smith says. “If people view politics as so divisive and potentially a threat to their own well-being, they’ll say ‘shit, I don’t want to get involved.’ And democracies depend on participation.We need civically engaged citizens.

Smith plans to explore how people can reduce the health impacts of politics in future research. Becoming more politically informed is one suggestion.

“People who are more politically informed were less likely to report these negative outcomes,” concludes the researcher.

“Something I would really like to look at is if you took someone who is politically interested, but not particularly politically knowledgeable, and they were given information about the political system, would that reduce those negative costs of politics This could be a positive outcome of civic education that has never been considered before.

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.

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