Opinion: Americans Need to Find Ways to Cope With Post-Election Stress to Prevent Health Issues

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

Now that President-elect Joe Biden’s victory is inciting joyful celebrations across the country (although mostly among Democrats), it’s difficult to imagine the palpable tension that coated the United States days prior. Regardless of political affiliation, this year’s week-long presidential election was a “source of stress” for 16% more Americans than the 2016 presidential election. Even though the election is over, the emotional turmoil it caused may be the source of hospitalizations due to sociopolitical stress and acute cardiovascular disease days later.

Throughout this election season, Americans witnessed two presidential debates filled with abuses and interruption, more partisan animosity than ever before, an election night filled with relentless chaos, a tight race to 270 electoral votes, lunatic political tweets, and a president in denial. People knew that the stakes were high and that the country — depressed by a fallen economy and health crisis — needed a competent commander in chief. With this in mind, it isn’t difficult to understand why the election was worrying.

According to a study published by the Proceedings of National Academy of Science (PNAS), hospitalizations for heart issues (specifically strokes and heart attacks) were 1.62 times higher after the 2016 election than before, irrespective of sex, age, race, or ethnicity. Therefore, Americans may benefit from taking care of themselves during this year’s election season to prevent triggering a cardiovascular event.

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 805,000 Americans suffer from heart attacks annually, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Moreover, heart attacks have spiked during natural disasters and due to “gut-churning anger” and stress, which is why a repeat of the 2016 post-presidential election health issues is plausible.

As we recover from the effects of the election, Americans must remember to engage in self-care and refrain from panicking about the results to stay healthy. I haven’t read or watched the news since the winner of the election was called. I find that scrolling through social media causes more anxiety because I’m continually encountering arguments between political opposites. Reading a book, going on a walk, or watching a funny movie usually alleviates my stress.

Americans are encouraged to address their feelings out loud and prevent discussions about the election if it may cause disagreements. “Talking with family and friends — even just on a video or phone call — can help those who are stressed out. So can spending time with pets. Just try limiting the conversation to topics that aren’t creating tension,” Director of Research and Innovation at the Mindfulness Center at Brown University Judson Brewer told NPR.

Moreover, communication with close family and friends to cope with post-election stress is essential because loneliness damages health. People should also spend time exercising because “of its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors.” As per a study on U.S. medical students who engaged in self-care, self-care has a “protective effect on the negative relationship between stress and quality of life.” Therefore, people need to use this time to break from politics and take care of themselves.

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