Nav: Home

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:
  • 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 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:

Public health guidelines aim to lower health risks of cannabis use
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released today with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.
Study clusters health behavior groups to broaden public health interventions
A new study led by a University of Kansas researcher has used national health statistics and identified how to cluster seven health behavior groups based on smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, physician visits and flu vaccination are associated with mortality.
Public health experts celebrate 30 years of CDC's prevention research solutions for communities with health disparities
It has been 30 years since CDC created the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Program, currently a network of 26 academic institutions across the US dedicated to moving new discoveries into the communities that need them.
Public health experts support federally mandated smoke-free public housing
In response to a new federal rule mandating smoke-free policies in federally funded public housing authorities, three public health experts applaud the efforts of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to protect nonsmoking residents from the harmful effects of tobacco exposure.
The Lancet Public Health: UK soft drinks industry levy estimated to have significant health benefits, especially among children
The UK soft drinks industry levy, due to be introduced in April 2018, is estimated to have significant health benefits, especially among children, according to the first study to estimate its health impact, published in The Lancet Public Health.
Social sciences & health innovations: Making health public
The international conference 'Social Sciences & Health Innovations: Making Health Public' is the third event organized as a collaborative endeavor between Maastricht University, the Netherlands, and Tomsk State University, the Russian Federation, with participation from Siberian State Medical University (the Russian Federation).
Columbia Mailman School Awards Public Health Prize to NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T.
Dr. Mary T. Bassett, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, was awarded the Frank A.
Poor health literacy a public health issue
America's poor record on health literacy is a public health issue, but one that can be fixed -- not by logging onto the internet but by increased interaction with your fellow human beings, a Michigan State University researcher argues.
Despite health law's bow to prevention, US public health funding is dropping: AJPH study
Although the language of the Affordable Care Act emphasizes disease prevention -- for example, mandating insurance coverage of clinical preventive services such as mammograms -- funding for public health programs to prevent disease have actually been declining in recent years.
'Chemsex' needs to become a public health priority
Chemsex -- sex under the influence of illegal drugs -- needs to become a public health priority, argue experts in The BMJ this week.

Related Public Health Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...