Over the past couple of days I have been thinking about the effects of voting on our wellbeing. I have summarized by thoughts into two questions: How does our wellbeing effect the way that we vote? How does voting effect our wellbeing. I did a little bit of research and found some interesting information to consider about voting and our health that I would like to share with you. Off the bat, I have to admit that this research is very basic, and certainly one can take a deep dive into this information, but for the sake of time… in that the polls for the 2018 in open just over 4 hours from when I wrote this, I’m just going to present some very basic information.
To help frame this post consider examining the following information using the social ecological model. First, I recommend you visit this site to see a visualization of the social ecological model. Of all of the explanations I could find online, the most easily accessible definition and explanation of the model and the levels of influence in the model comes from Rural Health Information Hub. On the RHIH website, they define the social ecological model as “...the interaction between, and interdependence of, factors within and across all levels of a health problem. It highlights people’s interactions with their physical and sociocultural environments.” RHIH goes on to give brief descriptions of each of the levels of influence in the model:
Intrapersonal/individual factors, which influence behavior such as knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and personality.
Interpersonal factors, such as interactions with other people, which can provide social support or create barriers to interpersonal growth that promotes healthy behavior.
Institutional and organizational factors, including the rules, regulations, policies, and informal structures that constrain or promote healthy behaviors.
Community factors, such as formal or informal social norms that exist among individuals, groups, or organizations, can limit or enhance healthy behaviors.
Public policy factors, including local, state, and federal policies and laws that regulate or support health actions and practices for disease prevention including early detection, control, and management.
In summary, the social ecological model assumes that factors outside of yourself impact your health and wellbeing.
In full disclosure, I did not think to approach this topic on my own, but was inspired by an article written by Gina Nerone at the University of Madison - Wisconsin titled, “Healthy democracy: How voting impacts wellbeing.”
PLOS One (the journal of the Public Library of Science) published an article in March of 2018 that found that communities that voted for the incumbent candidate in the 2008 and 2012 Presidential Elections that voted for the challenging candidate in 2016 also self-reported that they had a lower perception of their own wellbeing. Ziba Kashef, in an article for Yale News, summarized the results of the PLOS One research, “The researchers found that voting shifts away from the incumbent party in 2016 tracked closely with both reported drops in well-being since 2012, and lower well-being in 2016. For example, in counties where votes shifted from the Democrat to Republican presidential nominee, respondents reported less satisfaction with the city or area where they lived. Voting shifts were also associated with diminished happiness and increased sadness, the researchers said, although there were no changes in levels of anger.”
When we look at that information using the social ecological model, it is possible that people voted against the status quo candidate because the government, and decisions that the government made during that time period, had a negative impact on the community in which they lived, or that the government did not provide proper intervention to an event or events that needed government intervention, which in turn can impact the wellbeing of yourself, the people around you, and your community. For instance, say a major manufacturer of goods in your community leaves to move production overseas to cut costs. The movement of that manufacturer has potentially put people in your community out of work, compromised economic resources for community members, forced people to find new jobs possibly for lower wages and/or possibly further away from home, might force people to leave their community for better economic opportunity. If this is the case, as people move out of their community, businesses existing in that community suffer economic loss creating the potential of loss of resources in the community and funding for those resources in the community by way of taxes. The result of this, as an individual, is that you risk becoming economically depressed, which leads to higher risk of mental health disorders. So what does an individual do? They vote for someone different because the status quo was not working for them.
So, you don’t like that is happening in the world around you? Go vote today.
“But I’m actually pretty happy and things are going pretty well for me.” Go vote today. Why? I’ll explain further:
I found some pretty interesting information about the link between healthy people and their civic habits.
Time Magazine posted an article in January of 2018 summarizing research that found that people, starting in adolescence, and followed over a 20 year period who are civically engaged are happier. In the article, author Alexandra Sifferlin summarizes that people engaged in voting, volunteering, and activism tended to be happier, have higher income, higher education attainment, higher self esteem, better social connection and less loneliness, and less depressive symptoms.
You can assume, under the assumptions social economical model that the government and laws effect organizations and community, which impacts the health of you and the people in your life. Under the social economical model, we also influence the world around us by influencing the people around us and the way that the world works by participation in the civic process of voting. The best means we have impact our community and the world around us is by voting.
So today, go vote. The best case scenario is that you influence your country, state, and community to better reflect your values and you participate in a meaningful process that research shows has positive associations with wellbeing. The worst case scenario is that you participate in a meaningful process that research shows has positive associations with wellbeing.