Recent presidential election could have negative impact on health

June 7, 2017, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Credit: Petr Kratochvil/public domain

Stress, increased risk for disease, babies born too early, and premature death are among the negative health impacts that could occur in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to a new article from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Hospital.

Marginalized groups are likely to be most affected, the authors said. That's because hostile attitudes toward racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and Muslims—which appear to have been brought more to the surface with the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump—have been linked in previous studies with both mental and physical .

The article appears in the June 8, 2017 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Elections can matter for the health of children and adults in profound ways that are often unrecognized and unaddressed," said David R. Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health at Harvard Chan School and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, and lead author of the article.

Williams and co-author Morgan Medlock, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Hospital, explored a small but growing body of evidence on how election campaigns can influence health, and considered the implications for . They looked at existing studies that examined health impacts in the wake of the elections of former U.S. presidents, including President Donald Trump.

Studies conducted after President Obama was elected found an uptick in racial animosity among white Americans and a proliferation of hate websites and anti-Obama sentiment on social media. Donald Trump's election appeared to heighten already hostile attitudes toward racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and Muslims, according to some early research.

Williams and Medlock cited a number of studies suggesting that such societal hostility can have serious health effects. For example:

  • A January 2017 national survey by the American Psychological Association found that a large proportion of U.S. adults—more Democrats than Republicans, and more minorities than non-Hispanic whites—are stressed by the current political environment.
  • An August 2016 University of California, Berkeley study of 1,836 U.S. counties found an elevated risk of death from heart disease among both black and white residents of high-prejudice counties, with a stronger effect among blacks than whites.
  • A February 2006 University of Chicago study of birth outcomes among women of multiple racial and ethnic groups in California revealed that, in the six months after 9/11, when hostility against Arab Americans was intense, only among Arab American women was there a pattern of increased risk of low-birthweight babies or preterm births, as compared with the preceding six-month period.

The authors also warned that cuts to health and social services, such as the threatened repeal of the Affordable Care Act, are likely to further exacerbate the health challenges of poor and marginalized populations in the U.S. They reviewed studies that documented increases in infant mortality, preventable childhood diseases, and chronic disease among adults when such cuts were made early in the Reagan administration.

The authors suggested several ways that health care providers can respond if they find postelection "side effects" among their patients. For example, clinicians could directly address their patients' emotional distress, suggesting psychotherapy or medication; clinicians and could take a strong stance against hate crimes, discriminatory political rhetoric, and incivility; and the health care community can advocate for further research, or conduct their own, on potential negative related to elections and the societal climate, as well as on identifying effective interventions to reduce their adverse effects on .

Explore further: Epidemiologists call for more visibility of Arab Americans and their health issues

More information: "Health Effects of Dramatic Social Events - Ramifications of the Recent Presidential Election," David R. Williams and Morgan Medlock, New England Journal of Medicine, June 8, 2017, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMms1702111

Related Stories

Epidemiologists call for more visibility of Arab Americans and their health issues

April 18, 2017
A group of epidemiologists are advocating for the increased visibility of, and focus on, Arab Americans in discussions about mental and physical health issues in the U.S., in an article published in the American Journal of ...

Black, hispanic Americans less likely to see a neurologist

May 17, 2017
(HealthDay)—Black and Hispanic people are less likely than white people to make an appointment to see a neurologist, according to a new U.S. study.

America in 2017: pass the prozac, please

February 15, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many Americans are stressed about the future of the country, and politics and terrorism are key reasons why, a new survey finds.

Affordable Care Act has reduced racial/ethnic health disparities, study shows

December 2, 2015
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has significantly improved insurance coverage and use of health care for African Americans and Latinos, according to a new study led by researchers in the University of Maryland School of Public ...

Repeated experiences of racism most damaging to mental health

July 27, 2016
New research by University of Manchester academics has revealed for the first time how harmful repeated racial discrimination can be on mental and physical health.

Recommended for you

Self-lubricating latex could boost condom use: study

October 17, 2018
A perpetually unctuous, self-lubricating latex developed by a team of scientists in Boston could boost the use of condoms, they reported Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

How healthy will we be in 2040?

October 17, 2018
A new scientific study of forecasts and alternative scenarios for life expectancy and major causes of death in 2040 shows all countries are likely to experience at least a slight increase in lifespans. In contrast, one scenario ...

Study finds evidence of intergenerational transmission of trauma among ex-POWs from the Civil War

October 16, 2018
A trio of researchers affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research has found evidence that suggests men who were traumatized while POWs during the U.S. Civil War transmitted that trauma to their offspring—many ...

Father's nicotine use can cause cognitive problems in children and grandchildren

October 16, 2018
A father's exposure to nicotine may cause cognitive deficits in his children and even grandchildren, according to a study in mice publishing on October 16 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Pradeep Bhide of Florida ...

Many supplements contain unapproved, dangerous ingredients: study

October 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—U.S. health officials have issued more than 700 warnings during the last decade about the sale of dietary supplements that contain unapproved and potentially dangerous drug ingredients, new research reveals.

Age at which women experience their first period is linked to their sons' age at puberty

October 12, 2018
The age at which young women experience their first menstrual bleeding is linked to the age at which their sons start puberty, according to the largest study to investigate this association in both sons and daughters.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.