USA presidential election could have negative health impacts, article argues

Claudine Rigal
Juin 8, 2017

Professor David Williams, of the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health and Harvard University, said: "Elections can matter for the health of children and adults in profound ways that are often unrecognised and unaddressed".

Short-term beneficial health effects, the authors write, were seen in black South Africans after the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela as president, among black Americans during the 1988 presidential campaign by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and again among black Americans when Barack Obama was nominated for president in 2008.

Williams and Medlock cite a number of studies that linked election-related "societal hostility" to serious health effects.

Examples include a January, 2017 survey that found a large proportion of USA adults, especially Democrats and minorities, were stressed by the current political climate, and a 2016 University of California, Berkeley study that found an elevated risk of death from heart disease among both black and white residents of high-prejudice US counties.

An August 2016 study from the University of California, Berkeley claimed "1,836 USA 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".

Those health effects can include stress, increased risk of developing various diseases, babies born too early and premature deaths, the authors say.

Mr Obama's election had been followed by an "uptick in racial animosity among white Americans and a proliferation of hate websites and anti-Obama sentiment on social media", according to a statement about the research issued by the Harvard Chan School.

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.

Marginalized groups are most likely to be affected by the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, according to the authors of the article, which will appear in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Preparation of the article was supported by funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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