In the pandemic, election pressure is at its highest level in history

Key points

  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 election has aggravated the stress and anxiety of many people.
  • Marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by election pressure and COVID-19, putting them at higher risk of various mental and physical health problems.
  • Managing election pressure is very important to maintain mental health and immune system health during the pandemic.

According to experts, the 2020 presidential election may exacerbate the mental health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the emergence of COVID-19, the pressure on the 2020 presidential election was unusually high. According to the 2019 American Stress Survey of the American Psychological Association, more than half of American adults said they feel very stressed about the 2020 presidential election.

Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University Irvine Medical Center, said that although elections are always stressful, for various reasons, the 2020 election will have a greater impact on Americans’ mental health. “This year’s election was conducted against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic downturn, continued police brutality, racial inequality, and natural disasters, all of which have increased the pressure on the election.”

What caused the election pressure?

Election pressure and anxiety are caused by the uncertainty of election results. “Uncertainty is a core component of anxiety,” Cohen said. “People who cross political divisions believe that leaders from opposites pose a major threat to their way of life and the well-being of the country as a whole.”

The American Psychological Association’s 2019 “American Stress” report found that compared with 2016, more Americans reported pressure related to news issues including the presidential election. Four years ago, after the Donald Trump presidential election, 57% of Americans said that the current political climate is a very or somewhat important source of pressure. In 2019, this number rose to 62%.

Jeffrey Cohen, PhD in Psychology

“People across political divisions believe that leaders from opposing sides pose a major threat to their way of life and the well-being of the country as a whole.

— Jeffrey Cohen, PhD in Psychology

The 2019 survey also found that there are some common political issues that cause pressure. For example, 69% of adults said that healthcare is an important source of stress, and 71% (up from 62% in 2018) said the same was true for mass shootings.

In addition, Cohen pointed out that voting behavior is creating pressure in a way that has not been seen in past elections. “Many people are worried about COVID-19 when they vote on polling day,” he said, adding that people may also worry about mailing votes for various reasons, such as the recent changes in mail delay policy caused by the U.S. Postal Service.

Some people are more affected than others

Marginalized people, such as people of color, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, and people with disabilities, are more likely to feel the pressure of elections. For example, Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler, a licensed clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University, said that in 2016, people in her clinical practice felt that the then-candidate Donald’s news reports were “traumatic again. “. Trump is suspected of sexual misconduct. She said that because of the increase in hate crimes, many people are also afraid.

“Now, four years later, these fears have intensified,” she said. “As the country continues to fight COVID19 and civil strife, it’s becoming more dangerous. For communities of color disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and police violence, Trump’s likelihood of winning re-election brings even greater anxiety about his role. What the president might mean for our safety and well-being.”

Cohen added that blacks tend to face more voting barriers than whites, which can lead to anxiety and stress. For example, black and Latino voter turnout has been negatively affected in states with stricter voter status laws. “Compared with white Americans, black Americans and Americans of color are also less likely to get the required identification documents to vote, which can be stressful and anxious,” he said.

Jeffrey Cohen, PhD in Psychology

“More broadly, many LGBTQ+ Americans worry that the results of the election may lead to the further collapse of civil rights progress over the decades. This is stressful and anxious.

— Jeffrey Cohen, PhD in Psychology

He said that transgender Americans will also be more affected by election-related pressures.The Trump administration has formulated various policies for transgender people and their rights, including prohibiting transgender people from serving in the military And the reversal of protective measures that allow trans students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

A study by the Williams Institute also found that 42% of transgender voters did not have an identity document reflecting their name and/or gender identity. “This can cause anxiety, stress and voting problems,” Koens said. “More broadly, many LGBTQ+ Americans worry that the election results may lead to the further collapse of civil rights progress over the decades. This is stressful and anxious.”

Strategies to reduce election pressure and anxiety

To manage the stress and anxiety associated with elections, Burnett Ziegler said she encourages her clients to stay focused “now” and avoid trying to predict negative outcomes. “Focus on factors you can control, such as voting and advocating in a way that matches your values,” she said.

She also recommends restricting news viewing, especially at night, which will have a negative impact on sleep. She said: “Although the election news in the next few weeks will be very hot, you still have to use your channels, such as relying on the support of friends and family, and participating in other activities that can bring you happiness.”

Stress and anxiety can manifest in many ways. Symptoms to be aware of include: difficulty sleeping and/or eating, increased blood pressure, systemic tension, headache, stomach pain, difficulty sleeping, increased worry, and difficulty stopping once worrying begins.If you have trouble controlling your stress or feel unable to stop worrying, please consider contacting a mental health professional.

What this means to you

Constant anxiety and stress weaken the immune system by releasing cortisol into the body.Therefore, managing election-related stress is not only important for maintaining mental health, but also for protecting you from viruses such as COVID-19.