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The hospitalization rate for acute cardiovascular disease (CVD) events in a major Southern California health system was 1.62 times higher in the two days immediately following the 2016 presidential election than the same two days in the week leading up to the 2016 election, new research by Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Kaiser Permanente. The results were similar in terms of gender, age, race, and ethnicity, and the results suggest that socio-political stress can trigger CVD events.
The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on October 12, 2020.
“This is a wake-up call for any health professional who needs to pay more attention to how stress related to political campaigning, rhetoric and election results can directly harm health,” say David Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health at Harvard Chan School and corresponding author of the study.
Previous research has shown that there is an increased risk of acute CVD events shortly after major population-related events such as earthquakes, industrial accidents, terrorist attacks, and even sporting events. The American Psychological Association recently found that a large proportion of adults view the current political climate as a significant source of stress, although little is known about how this stress can affect health.
For this study, researchers analyzed data from Kaiser Permanente Southern California, an integrated health system that serves 4.6 million people in the area. They focused on diagnosing acute myocardial infarction and stroke in adults and on emergency room diagnoses for chest pain and unstable angina. In the two days immediately following the 2016 presidential election, the hospitalization rate for CVD events was 573.14 per 100,000 person-years (or 94 total hospitalizations), compared with a rate of 353.75 per 100,000 person-years (or 58 total hospitalizations) two days of the week the week before the election.
“In our diverse patient population, reflecting Southern California as a whole, we found the risk of heart attacks increased after the 2016 elections regardless of gender, age, and race / ethnic group,” said the study’s lead researcher, Matthew Mefford of the Kaiser Permanent Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation. “It is important
When you are stressed about election, you are not alone
Matthew T. Mefford el al., “Sociopolitical Stress and Hospitalizations with Acute Cardiovascular Disease Associated with the 2016 Presidential Election”, PNAS (2020). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.2012096117 Provided by Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health
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