Dr. Campbell: The negative health impacts of election year stress

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — This year’s presidential election has been one of the most negative campaigns in history.

Researchers from the American Psychological Association have found that Americans are finding that the 2016 race has caused them great physical and psychological stress—in many cases resulting in negative health impacts. The APA conducted a survey and released the results last week—more than half of Americans (regardless of party) are feeling the stress of the election.

1. Tell us about what the American Psychological Association found in their survey?

Starting in August the APA conducted a survey of Americans and asked how the election was affecting them—more than 50 percent of respondents indicated significant, very high levels of stress and anxiety related to the election. These results were independent of party affiliation.

This finding puts election stress on par with major stressors such as money, work or the economy. In addition, the researchers found that those Americans who are active on social media outlets had an even higher rate of election stress as compared to those who were not on these sites.

Most notably, the demographic feeling it the most are seniors. Close to six out of 10 people over 71 years old said they were stressed by this election. Millennials were the next most angst-ridden group. Typically older groups report less stress than younger groups and this reversal is quite significant.

Graphic courtesy of the American Psychological Association and the Wall Street Journal
Graphic courtesy of the American Psychological Association and the Wall Street Journal

2. What are the physical effects of election-related stress?

Stress can cause elevated blood pressure, heart rate and increased levels of stress hormones to be released in the body. If you are at risk for heart disease or having underlying heart disease, this can precipitate a cardiac event. Anxiety is common with this type of stress. It can result in sleep disturbances and decreased performance in work or school. Stress can also strain relationships.

3. What can we do to minimize negative health impacts due to stress?

Here is where real life coping skills come into play. Here are some simple ways to reduce stress and better deal with election anxiety over the next few weeks until it’s over.
• If the constant 24 hour news cycle is bothering you, limit media consumption (except for the CBS North Carolina News at Noon)
• Avoid election discussions if they are likely to enhance or create conflict
• Channel anxiety about the election into productive activities that can impact things you care about. For example volunteer in your community
• Remember that whatever happens on Nov. 8, life will go on! We live in a democracy and our country will continue to function and excel on the world stage. There are checks and balances in the system
• VOTE—it is the one thing you can control—your vote is your voice

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

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