Newswise — According to recent research by University of California Irvine public health researchers, the 2016 election of Donald Trump was highly contentious and fraught with racist rhetoric. This led to adverse changes in mental well-being across many races/ethnicities.
Corresponding author and assistant professor of health, society, and behavior Brittany N. Morey, PhD, MPH of the UCI Program in Public Health said, “We found that the group that experienced the most increase in poor self-reported mental health were English-speaking Latinx who were living in states where the majority voted for Trump in the 2016 election.”
Findings were published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.
In November 2016 and February 2017 – the time periods immediately following the 2016 election and 2017 inauguration – English-speaking Latinx adults living in Trump-majority states reported 1 to 2 more poor mental health days in that past month than expected. This supports our hypothesis that former President Trump’s election caused population-level mental health effects in those most affected by racist and xenophobic socialpolitical environments.” Morey stated. “We call this phenomenon ‘symbolic disempowerment’ and our study shows that elections themselves are social determinants of health.”
Morey and her collaborators did not observe the same pattern for English-speaking Latinx who were living in states that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, which may indicate a protective effect of living in Democratic-leaning states.
Interestingly, researchers did see higher than average poor mental health days among white populations living in states that primarily voted for Clinton, which indicated that white populations in more progressive states displayed higher levels of stress and anxiety as a result of the 2016 election.
” We also observed lower than average levels of poor mental health among Spanish-speaking Latinx communities in states that voted Trump. This was surprising to us,” Morey said. This could be because many Latinx respondents to the survey in Trump-voting States were themselves politically conservatives. Alternatively, we believe that the national survey we based our study on likely did not capture Latinx who were especially marginalized and fearful of an anti-immigration political and social environment, so our estimates of poor mental health were underestimated.”
Morey and her collaborators’ research was prompted by numerous reports from people experiencing distress and symptoms of anxiety immediately following Trump’s presidential win. There was much stigmatizing language used in the political rhetoric that preceded Trump’s election. This included immigration. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there was an increase in anxiety and fear among those who identified with the immigrant crisis.
This study will expand upon previous literature regarding the impact of presidential elections on mental and physical health. It will also highlight the need to continue research on major elections and other political events that can have an influence on health. Public health professionals need to be aware of the impact of political events on health. The country is becoming more divided by politics and society. Co-author San Juanita Garcia, assistant professor of Chicana/o studies at UC Santa Barbara said, “special attention should be paid to those who have been most historically oppressed in society, as they seem to have the most at stake when it comes to elections that can symbolize feelings of empowerment or disempowerment.”
Co-investigators also included Tanya Nieri, PhD from the UC Riverside Department of Sociology, Tim A. Bruckner, PhD from the UCI Program in Public Health; and Bruce G. Link, PhD from the UC Riverside School of Public Policy and Department of Sociology.
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