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A study investigating mental health indicators during the 2016 general election


Millions of Americans, whether Trump’s victory or Biden’s victory, may expect a decline in mental health if they live in a state that favors a defeated candidate. And the higher the winning margin of a defeated candidate, the more stress and depression days the inhabitants of those states will have.

In a study led by the University of California, San Francisco and Duke University, researchers looked at mental health indicators during the 2016 general election and compiled data from nearly 500,000 adults. They found that residents of Hillary Clinton’s majority state experienced an average of half a day’s additional mental health loss in the month following the election (December) compared to the previous month (October). did.

This was converted to more than 54.6 million days of stress and depression in December 2016 alone in only 109.2 million adults living in Clinton, the authors reported in their study. General Internal Medicine Journal October 31, 2020.

Clinicians need to consider that elections can cause at least a temporary decline in mental health and adjust patient care accordingly. “

Renee Y. Hsia, MD, Study Author, Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California-San Francisco (UCSF)

In two surveys conducted around November 2016, Hsia noted that about 50% of Americans report elections as a source of significant stress.

Researchers used a behavioral risk factor monitoring system, a joint state- and federal household survey of 499,201 adults, to compare the impact of elections. Clinton 20 state respondents experienced “stress, depression, and emotional problems” in the last 30 days, with an average of 3.35 days in October 2016, compared to 3.85 days in December 2016. It states.

Voters in the 30 states of Trump experienced a decline in mental health for an average of 3.94 and 3.78 days the month before and the month after the election. This difference has not changed statistically.

In contrast, researchers noted a 2 percentage point increase in the number of Clinton respondents who reported 14 days or more of a month’s decline in mental health (a marker of major depressive disorder) over the same period. Did. No such increase was seen in Trump.

“The nature of unexpected loss” may have worsened mental health after Clinton’s defeat

“Mental health is deteriorating in Clinton due to the nature of unexpected losses, at least according to pre-election polls,” said Brandon Yang, a third-year medical student at the University of California, San Francisco. It could have gotten worse. “

Researchers have found that Clinton’s winning margin in each state predicts the extent of changes in mental health from October 2016 to December 2016. With a 10 percent higher margin, another 0.41 day decline in mental health was predicted. Conversely, a 10 percentage point higher margin for Trump’s victory was predicted to reduce mental health decline by 0.41 days.

By April 2017, the number of residents in Clinton who reported that their healthcare providers had depression increased by 3.2 points from October 2016. However, residents of Trump were unaffected by the increase in depression.

By April 2017, it had risen 2.8 percentage points. This may partially reflect the opioid epidemic that killed more than 47,000 people that year, many in the Red States.

According to Hsia, Americans may be at even higher risk of stress and depression in the next election. “The situation is exacerbated by a pandemic. Depression screening and the usual approach to mental health care may not reach patients who have not met their primary care provider,” she said.

“The pandemic and recession are increasing isolation and loneliness. Americans are worried about the spread of illness, to secure employment, keep roofs overhead, and ensure that children go to school. I’m afraid. “


Journal reference:

Yang, BW, et al.. (2020) Changes in mental health after the 2016 presidential election. General internal medicine journal.


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