Recent presidential election could have negative impact on health

June 07, 2017

Boston, MA - 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 adverse health effects.

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 health care providers. 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: 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 health care organizations 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 health effects related to elections and the societal climate, as well as on identifying effective interventions to reduce their adverse effects on health.
-end-
Preparation of the article was supported by funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"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

Visit the Harvard Chan School website for the latest news, press releases, and multimedia offerings.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. As a community of leading scientists, educators, and students, we work together to take innovative ideas from the laboratory to people's lives--not only making scientific breakthroughs, but also working to change individual behaviors, public policies, and health care practices. Each year, more than 400 faculty members at Harvard Chan School teach 1,000-plus full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses. Founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the School is recognized as America's oldest professional training program in public health.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200852.

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.