25 percent of college students report stress over 2016 presidential election: Study

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<pWhen your student comes home for the holiday, you may want to ask them about the stressors of college life: classes, significant others, funds, and the state of politics.

<pIn times past, we have assumed that politics have little to do with our personal lives, however, college healthcare providers are finding that many students are in a significant amount of distress regarding the 2016 presidential election<p

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<pSubsequently, the researchers sought to study the perceived impact of the 2016 election on close relationships, the prevalence of election-related distress symptoms, and the demographics (race, gender, religion) of those who reported more symptoms.

<pThe study took 769 college students enrolled in an introductory psychology course and had them fill out a questionnaire two to three months following the presidential election in November 2016. The questionnaire was a validated psychological tool used to evaluate the self-reported stress-related symptoms following an event. Some of the symptoms the tool asked about were avoidance and intrusions associated with the stressor.

<pWhat did the researchers find?

<pThe overall result was that 25 percent of students questioned reported clinically significant stress symptoms related to the election. This means that these students should talk to their doctors about their symptoms.

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<pThe highest levels of election-related stress were found in African-Americans and those classified as sexual minorities. The two groups that demonstrated the lowest levels of reported election-related stress were those who reported being registered Republicans and males.

<pRegarding close relationships, nearly 25 percent reported that the election had a negative impact on their close relationships. Unfortunately, the data was not able to say exactly why the groups with most stress were stressed, but the researchers offered their speculations.

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<p“We speculate that issues of identity and social inequality prominent in election-related rhetoric may have been particularly salient to these groups of students,” according to the researchers. They also went on to share that the perception of negative rhetoric from media and online sources could have had a health-relevant psychological toll.

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<pThough the study does not show if this pattern of election distress is different from previous elections, it does successfully imply that clinicians must recognize the impact of politics on a student’s mental health as these students are at increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mood disorders. Hopefully, awareness of topics such as these makes it easier for students to seek help when needed and campus wellness programs to provide care for a variety of stress-related complaints.