A new study finds that voting in elections, like the quickly approaching Presidential election, can actually cause stress and emotional arousal, something people passionate about politics likely already knew.
“Emotional changes are related and affect various physiological processes, but we were surprised that voting in national democratic elections causes emotional reactions accompanied by such physical and psychological stress that can easily influence our decision-making,” according to Professor Hagit Cohen from the Anxiety and Stress Research Unit at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Faculty of Health Sciences.
The study, published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, found that the level of cortisol in study participants was nearly three times higher just before voting than it was 21 months later. Cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” is released when a person is in a state of stress, threat or emotional distress.
The study was conducted on Israel’s Election Day in 2009 with individuals on their way into a polling place. They were asked to give a saliva sample and to complete a questionnaire examining emotional arousal at a stand that was placed 30 feet from the ballot box.
“Since we do not like to feel ‘stressed out,’ it is unclear whether this pressure on Election Day can influence people and cause them not to vote at all. Impact on voter turnout is particularly important given that the stress levels rise if our preferred party or candidate for whom we want to vote is not popular in the polls,” Cohen said.