Voting and Your Health

Tomorrow, as Americans cast their vote they hold not only the fate of Obama, Romney and the US in their hands, they are also influencing their own health. Research shows that stepping into that polling booth can have both subtle and profound effects on our health and behavior.

While campaigns can be physically taxing for the candidates, it turns out that your average voter can be stressed out by elections too. According to scientists from the University of Haifa and Ben-Gurion University in Israel levels of the human stress hormone – cortisol, increases just before casting a vote. This unexpected physical and emotional reaction could even influence a voter’s last-minute decision.

But don’t let that keep you away from the polls. There are positives as well. Performing a civic duty such as voting promotes community involvement, which in turn has been shown to promote psychological and physical health.

Voting can also have positive and negative effects on sexual health.  Coming up short in a hard-fought election would be disappointing to any candidate. A study from Duke University and the University of Michigan, showed that it’s not only the candidate that suffers a defeat. Male supporters of the losing party may also experience a significant drop in testosterone levels immediately after the announcement of the vote outcome. Interestingly, female supporters did not experience a similar change in hormonal levels, nor did those who backed the victor.

However,in both the 2004 and 2008 elections, states that backed winning candidates showed an increase in the number of Google search requests for sexually explicit content.

And if casting your vote involves a car journey, be sure to wear your seat belt.  According to researchers from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Stanford University, fatal car crashes are 18% more likely on Election Day than any other.  The average presidential election leads to around 24 traffic deaths. Reasons for this trend, include emotions, driving unfamiliar routes, and the potential mobilization of unfit drivers.

And even if you make it safely to the polls and back your health troubles aren’t over.  A 2010, study published in the Social Science Quarterly examined suicide rates following state elections. Researchers found that when a majority of a state’s electorate picked a winner, the state’s suicide rate decreased. At the same time, when a majority picks a loser, the state’s suicide rate also decreases.

So, however you decide to vote tomorrow – take care!