The Social, Psychological, Emotional and Physical Health Costs of Politics

A recent study published in PLOS One reports the results of a survey designed to measure the many personal costs of political engagement.

The results are sobering, to say the least:

Physical Health

  • 38% say politics has caused them to be stressed
  • 26.4% say they have become depressed when a preferred candidate lost.
  • 18.3% say they’ve lost sleep because of politics.
  • 11.5% say politics has adversely affected their physical health.

Emotional Health

  • 31.8% say that exposure to media outlets promoting views contrary to theirs can drive them crazy
  • 29.3% have lost their temper as a result of politics
  • 26.5% say politics has led them to hate some people
  • 23.3% have seriously considered moving because of politics
  • 15.3% have secretly wished bad things on those who disagree with the politically
  • 11% have become annoyed when others are critical of their political views

Regretted Behavior

  • 22.1% care too much about who wins and loses in politics
  • 13.1% have vowed to spend less time on politics but then failed to follow through
  • 12.4% have spent more time on political web sites than they they felt they should

Social and Lifestyle Health

  • 20% say differences in views have damaged a valued friendship
  • 8% say differences in views have caused problems at work

Kevin Smith, lead author of the study and chair of the political science department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, notes in a Wall Street Journal article that “the major takeaway from this is that if our numbers are really anywhere in the ballpark, there are tens of millions of Americans who see politics as exacting a toll on their social, psychological, emotional and even physical health.”

Dr. Smith also notes that these effects seem to be more pronounced for those who are younger, on the political left, and interested and engaged in politics.

For many people, the political climate exacerbates existing conditions.

  • one person with a habit of grinding her teeth says the habit has recently kicked into high gear, losing two more teeth from grinding too much and having to get implants
  • another person had her first flare-up of MS in nearly 10 years after the 2016 election
  • an Iowa man has asked for a higher dosage of his anxiety medication

As for me, politics led me to my first, and only, blocking of someone on Facebook.

I have let my political beliefs be known on this blog before (a bleeding heart liberal), but I purposely try to avoid writing about it too much.

I don’t mind talking about politics with people who are of the same mindset as me, but I try to avoid talking about it with friends who view things differently since I don’t want politics to get in the way of the friendship.

I’ve also read more news stories that are politically oriented in the past couple of years, mainly because it seems like there’s something going on all the time politically.

I’d much prefer going back to a time when politics were rarely discussed, political fighting wasn’t always in the news, and people got along more easily.

Well, it’s time to wrap this up; I’ve got to check what the latest news is on the impeachment inquiry…

*image from the Houston Chronicle

9 thoughts on “The Social, Psychological, Emotional and Physical Health Costs of Politics

  1. I love politics and news and hard being in the midst of such a crazy carousel in the last couple of years. I step away when I need to.


  2. Propaganda is bad but the false equivalence is worse that somehow “both parties are to blame” … as if somehow this is just “politics as usual.” It is NOT. I’m longing for the day when our long national nightmare is over.

    With SO MUCH material coming to light about wrong doings –a deluge in the past few weeks– leading finally to an official impeachment inquiry –with further obstruction of justice moves by trump (not even trying to be hidden by the executive branch) it is SO HARD to turn away.

    ( A friend calls the daily deluge of news “impeachment porn” her husband can’t stop watching/reading/obsessing over) … awful news any way you look at it, but hard to stop reading about because each article explains what is illegal and unethical and so disturbing about exactly HOW corruption has permeated not just politics but our government. Everything “they” warned us about the “evils” of capitalist greed/corruption seems to be coming true.

    Overwhelming, upsetting but most upsetting of all is the assault on legitimate, through investigative reporting /journalism that is exposing the crimes/wrong doings is decried and dismissed as “fake news” by our “elected” president– when it is clearly anything but.

    I DO NOT understand how any American can not believe that with so much evidence this unwell, incompetent, man who has no respect for our finest institutions–FBI, CIA, military generals–should have access to the nuclear codes. It is mind boggling. Wake me when it is over.


    1. So many great points, Susan. The attacks on journalists, and journalism in general, really bother me as well. There has always been a confrontational relationship between the press and politicians, but at least it was managed in a respectful way. That no longer seems to be the case, particularly with the way our President treats the press. Hopefully, in less than one year we will have a new leader.


  3. I have had to step back from politics. I;ve always been interested in domestic politics and U.S. was once my domestic…then I became a human rights defender and after 6 years realised my mental health was suffering. Money trumps human rights. And so does Trump. Brexit has caused mental health issues here, torn families apart, and destroyed friendships. I do not discuss politics. I will discuss the sale of arms, and other moral issues.


    1. It is a touchy subject to discuss, even when you are talking with someone you agree with. Such discussions make you realize how crazy this all is. And forget about trying to talk with someone you disagree with, it usually gets too emotional for both sides, myself included. But it wasn’t like this two or three years ago…


      1. In the UK we have always been quite polarised. Labour and the Conservatives are far apart. Blair was quite to the right though and he is much hated. Many of us fear losing NHS as it was. It is already being sold off to private companies. I never talk politics. Now it’s not safe whoever you talk to.


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