Election Anxiety: Americans Stressed Over White House Race

Woman casting ballot in voting boxThe 2016 United States presidential election is a source of significant stress for many Americans on both sides of the political divide, according to the annual Stress in America survey from the American Psychological Association (APA).

Many therapists around the country are also reporting more people coming to their therapy sessions with feelings of fear, anger, and anxiety about the election.

Majority of Americans Experiencing Election Stress

Approximately 3,500 U.S. citizens participated in the survey, with weighted variables balanced across age, education, race, region, and income to demographically represent the current U.S. population.

Based on the results, 52% of participants reported feeling somewhat significant or very significant stress levels surrounding the upcoming presidential election. Men and women reported about equal stress levels, at 51% and 52% respectively. People who are active on social media were especially likely to experience election-related stress. About 54% of people who regularly use social media said the election was a significant source of stress (compared to 45% of adults who do not use social media), and 4 in 10 respondents said politically charged conversations on social media were a cause of stress.

Stress levels revolving around election anxiety varied by age group. The oldest and youngest American adults were most likely to be experiencing greater stress ahead of the vote. Of those 71 years and older, 59% reported experiencing significant stress levels. For millennials (ages 19-37 in this study), 56% reported significant stress. Fifty percent of baby boomers (ages 52-70) reported higher stress, as did 45% of those in Generation X (ages 38-51).

More so than other racial or ethnic groups, Hispanics were most likely to report experiencing election-related stress (56%), followed by 52% of whites, 52% of Native-Americans, 46% of African-Americans, and 43% of Asian-Americans.

About 60% of individuals with disabilities reported experiencing election stress compared to 48% of those without a disability. The percentage of Republicans and Democrats (59% and 55% respectively) experiencing election-related stress or anxiety was about statistically equal.

Ways to Ease Election Anxiety

The results of the survey come with recommendations aimed at helping voters mitigate their stress levels before heading to the ballot box on November 8. These recommendations include reducing the amount of daily media intake and instead reading just enough to stay informed while prioritizing time with family and friends. Avoiding politically charged discussions that are likely to veer into unproductive conflict either online or in person can be an effective way to sidestep heightened election anxiety.

No matter what happens on Election Day, the APA suggests reminding yourself that life will go on. Maintaining a balanced perspective and avoiding “catastrophizing” either outcome can ease stress levels. For those who feel the need to channel their concerns into something productive, the APA recommends finding a way to support your local community, such as volunteering or advocating for a meaningful issue.

The APA’s final recommendation is to vote. Voting in the upcoming election can be an effective way to feel a sense of importance and participation in an especially stressful election cycle.

References:

  1. Alderman, L. (2016, October 20). Talking to your therapist about election anxiety. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/20/well/mind/talking-to-your-therapist-about-election-anxiety.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fhealth&_r=0
  2. American Psychological Association. (2016). APA survey reveals 2016 presidential election source of significant stress. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2016/10/presidential-election-stress.aspx
  3. Shanker, D. (2016, October 13). It’s official: This election is driving Americans nuts. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-13/it-s-official-this-election-is-driving-americans-nuts

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  • Dunn

    Dunn

    November 2nd, 2016 at 12:31 PM

    I am stressed and I am ready for it all to be over. I am sad that this is the first election that both of my kids have really been old enough to understand and it has been so plain nasty. I want them to see good things about the political process in the US and this has been terrible, showing them nothing but the bad,

  • Sonia

    Sonia

    November 3rd, 2016 at 12:10 PM

    I have friends from all walks of life and I guess we are friends so we are not letting political differences get between us. But that is the cool thing about being an American. I can believe what I want and so can you and at the end of the day it’s all good.

  • Kat E

    Kat E

    November 3rd, 2016 at 1:17 PM

    Yes, It stresses me too especially with all of the misinformation being reported and shared. The biggest stressor for me is whether or not TO vote. I have always voted but I can not bring myself to do it this year because both candidates are ethically and morally corrupt.

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