How Negative Political Campaigns May Affect Your Health

How Negative Political Campaigns May Affect Your Health

Today, all you have to do is turn on the news and you will inevitably receive a large helping of negative political campaign tactics. Whether it is an ad that predicts doomsday scenarios if you vote for a certain candidate or one that paints your favorite contestant as a liar, it could be affecting your health.

Our country is so divided at this time that unity seems distant while attack proves imminent. So many of us are now walking around feeling like victims that local skirmishes are becoming the new norm.

From social media rants to actual, physical confrontations, you could very well be a victim of the result of your choice of polarized political rhetoric. In turn, this is how negative political campaigns might be affecting your health.

Negative Ads

Each election cycle, millions of dollars are spent on painting a thirty to sixty-second negative picture of a particular candidate. You may seem used to these tactics, yet often, unbeknownst to you the viewer, you can be deeply affected beyond your conscious mind. As a result, there could be peripheral health repercussions.

It turns out that as savvy as you think you may be to these ads, there are emotional triggers that are pulled. These triggers are often activated without you even knowing it. George Marcus, Marcus, president of the International Society of Political Psychology comments to NBC news,

“Those triggers reach into our brains faster than words, ideas and rational thought.”

When emotions are manipulated in this way, the residue could have a chain reaction affect. For instance, you just watched a negative ad campaign or listened to some hate speech by a particular candidate and then you go run some errands. Maybe something minor happens such as experiencing a poor driver or a long wait line. Because your emotions have already been negatively primed there is a good chance that your heart will race, your blood pressure will rise and your anger will easily spill over.

It Could Be A Primitive Response

Humans are wired to perceive threats to life before any other reaction. It is known as the “fight or flight” response coming from the sympathetic nervous system.

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist, founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, and New York Times best-selling author discusses this evolutionary strategy,

“Our minds naturally focus on the bad and discard the good. It was much more important for our ancestors to avoid threats than to collect rewards: An individual who successfully avoided a threat would wake up the next morning and have another opportunity to collect a reward, but an individual who didn’t avoid the threat would have no such opportunity.”

Therefore, when you are bombarded with negative political campaigns, your pre-wired, natural response can be triggered.

Rumination Occurence

To continually turn something over and over in your brain (which can often happen even when you are not consciously doing it) is rumination. When it comes to negative influences such as political campaign tactics, the stress hormone cortisol can be over produced.

Normal levels of cortisol are responsible for,

  • Proper glucose metabolism
  • Regulation of blood pressure
  • Insulin release for blood sugar maintenance
  • Immune function
  • Inflammatory response

However, when too much cortisol occurs it could result in,

  • Impaired cognitive performance
  • Suppressed thyroid function
  • Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
  • Decreased bone density
  • Decrease in muscle tissue
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
  • Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat are heart attacks, strokes, the development of metabolic syndrome, higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL), which can lead to other health problems.

Protect Your Political Ire

Before you get all uppity over negative political campaigns, there are ways you can protect your conscious and unconscious reaction. By implementing some basic tools you might be able to embrace or avoid the political landscape.

Here’s a quick checklist to determine what may work for you:

  • Avoid Sound Bites – Too many people get their news and form their opinion from canned, edited, short spurts of news. Avoid these political news sound bites, often designed to increase your hate, fear or disgust of a candidate which will inevitably also increase your cortisol levels.
  • No Social Media News – There is nothing more untrustworthy than getting, and embarrassingly quoting, your political (or any) news from social media. Don’t jeopardize your mental health by falling into a social media rabbit hole filled with fear, confusion and weak sources.
  • Get the Facts – If you want to have a say in the political conversation do some solid research regardless of your beliefs. You will sound like the smartest person in the room if you can learn, retain and recall political facts with reputable sources. This means confidence, which begets good health.
  • Work Both Sides – You may side with one camp but it is essential to learn all sides to make an informed decision. Don’t overdose on one-sided sources but instead research just as good sources on the other side. This will lessen confusion, depression, anger and hate turning it into practical intellect, an excellent source for a healthy mental outlook.
  • Put Your Head In The Sand – It may not be very patriotic or beneficial but if you really want to protect your health you can avoid the entire political process altogether. That means using mute, fast-forward and switching channels as well as avoiding those who like to rant.


Don’t get caught up in negativity during a political campaign. Avoid emotional involvement while using your intellect instead. Follow some of this advice and you may be able to skip some peripheral, adverse health effects.