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Political Stress and Its Impact on the Physical and Mental Health of Citizens

Clarisse Warren, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

This dissertation explores the degree to which politics is a stressor in people’s lives and what implications this has for their overall health and well-being. While much political science research has focused on singular political events (e.g., elections), as acute stressors, I contend that politics is a chronic stressor in people’s lives, as people experience politics more frequently than once every four years. Using self-reported survey data from two distinct samples, the Perceived Political Stress Scale is introduced and validated. Analyses demonstrate that politics is stressful, largely due to its uncontrollable, unpredictable, and inescapable nature. The results herein provide evidence that politics is a particularly pernicious stressor in that 1) adaptive coping mechanisms fail to reduce political stress levels, 2) political stress predicts an increased risk of experiencing negative physical health outcomes, like high blood pressure, an increased appetite, and loss of sleep, and 3) political stress predicts an increased risk of experiencing negative mental health outcomes, like anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms, difficulty regulating one’s emotions, and suicidal ideation above and beyond what general stress levels predict. While political stress does not directly cause any of these health conditions, it can potentially exacerbate the manifestation of these ailments. The implications for the role politics should play in the lives of individuals are discussed, suggesting that moderation in politics is important.

Subject Area

Political science|Mental health|Public health

Recommended Citation

Warren, Clarisse, "Political Stress and Its Impact on the Physical and Mental Health of Citizens" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI29069360.
https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI29069360

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