Study finds worrying about election stress can harm your health

March 26, 2023 People's Journal 139 views

A NEW study found that simply anticipating stress related to political elections causes adverse physical health effects. However, the study also found solutions on what people can do to mitigate those negative health effects.

Study participants reported worse physical health on days when they also reported having high levels of anticipatory stress — meaning they expected to experience election-related stress within the next 24 hours. That would mean that simply anticipating possible stress was enough to make them feel worse.

Researchers found strategies people can use to help preserve their health, even when anticipating stress. It’s called problem analysis.

“For example, if they think they’re going to have an argument about the election with an acquaintance in the next 24 hours, they might think about why they’re going to have that argument or what that argument will be about. Basically, problem analysis is all about mentally engaging with whatever problem they’re anticipating,” researchers said.

Here’s how effective problem analysis was: on days when study participants anticipated stress, but were also actively engaging in problem analysis, participants reported no decline in physical health.

And these findings were true across the board.

“We controlled for the political orientation and age of the study participants,” said Brittany Johnson, first author of the study and a former undergraduate at NC State. “We controlled for whether they actually experienced election-related stress on the days when they anticipated it. We controlled for the presence of other types of stress.

“No matter how you slice it, anticipating election-related stress adversely affected health — with the exception of when people were engaged in problem analysis.” (North Carolina State University)