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Health Fusion: Politics are making us sick

When you check your newsfeed, do you get rankled over politics? A new study shows that all of that stress is making us sick. Viv Williams has details in this episode of "Health Fusion" for NewsMD.

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U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.
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ROCHESTER — If you want to catch up on political news, your media options are many. With a smartphone, you can check out the latest info and opinions just about anywhere and at any time.

But a new study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) found that the barrage of political news is bad for our health. It's making us sick because the political jockeying is stressing us out and hurting our mental and physical health.

Kevin Smith, study author and a political scientist at UNL, repeated a 2017 survey study in which he measured the effects of the political climate on Americans’ physical, social, mental and emotional health. He got similar results both times — a lot of American adults blame politics for causing them stress, loss of sleep, fatigue, fractured relationships, loss of temper and triggering of compulsive behaviors.

About one-quarter of respondents said politics made them want to move.

Smith said the most alarming finding was that 5% of Americans blame politics for having suicidal thoughts.

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What can we do about all of this? Smith plans to look into that in future research. But he adds that people who reported fewer negative outcomes tended to be more politically knowledgeable. So, perhaps, learning more could become a tool for mitigating issues in the future.

“Something I’d really like to look at would be if you took somebody who’s politically interested, but not particularly politically knowledgeable, and they were given information about the political system, would that reduce these negative costs of politics?" asks Smith. "That could be a positive outcome of civic education that’s never been considered before.”

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Follow the Health Fusion podcast on Apple , Spotify , and Google Podcasts.

For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at vwilliams@newsmd.com . Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

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