Cast your vote, it’s good for mental health

Cast your vote, it’s good for mental health

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For those who voted two Saturdays ago, doctors say you have done a fantastic thing that will improve your mental health for the next dispensation.

A vote for the candidate you have been rooting for may also be a vote for your good health, physicians say.

Consultant psychologist, Dr. Shina Adebanjo, says by exercising your fundamental right to vote, you have helped your mental health and, in turn, good physical health. He adds that some people will likely benefit from voting more than others.

Adebanjo says, “When you feel that you actually made a life-changing decision for the good of many such a nation, for instance, you are bound to feel good about yourself. You feel you did a reasonable calculation.

“The last election results in some states were quite close. People who voted in these areas felt that they were players. This is good for some functions in the brain. Mere thought that your vote actually counted is more likely to douse any anger in you.

“The psychological benefit starts from when you vote and believe you have chosen a candidate that can make your life better.”

Professor of psychology at the University of Michigan’s School of Health, Marc Zimmerman, says voting may also provide bigger health benefits for those most at risk such as the sick, elderly and the vulnerable, such as pregnant women.

Oh yes, remember that ailing 85-year-old Dr. Adebisi Sebanjo caused a stir on Saturday March 28 after he arrived at the polling unit in Doula, Apapa, Lagos State.

Even though the octogenarian medical director of Julisam Hospital was assisted to the polling booth by two young female nurses wearing blue uniforms, he still exercised his right to vote!

Not surprising, as a physician himself, he is likely to be more aware of the mental health benefit of performing such a civic responsibility

Zimmerman explains that voting increases your bond with the society and the community in which you reside since you are likely to be choosing who becomes your counselor, who goes to the parliament and the national assembly.

“Politics and politicking have their health benefits. You become more engaged in your community, especially if the candidates have held town hall meetings. As a community, you bond and engage one another more when you are voting. You know you have empowered yourself so you can have some control over the things in life that are under your control,” Zimmerman assures.

Adebanjo adds that when people vote, they feel less sidelined by their government and are more likely to accept the outcome of the elections.

He states, “Violence erupts during elections when people feel that they did not exercise their rights. If a ballot box is snatched in a polling booth, people will challenge such results, chaos may break out at the unit before you know it, and people will feel disenfranchised throughout the period or tenure of the candidate that eventually emerges. They will never agree with his/her policies or position.

“It is not only politically correct to allow elections to be free and fair, it is also good for the health of the citizens.”

Scientific research supports Adebanjo’s position, as an associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia, Dr. Lynn Sanders, just completed a study that shows voting may help ease the psychological stress and other mental health problems that stem from being economically, politically, or socially disadvantaged.

She says, “I think that people who are on the wrong sides of the divide, measured according to anything – health, income, quality of community, or job status – those are the people who stand to benefit most.”

Her study also shows that voting and being engaged in the political process can reduce the risk of future psychological problems, especially among those with history of depression.

Kids also benefit

It is not only those who are legally allowed to vote that benefit. Researchers say children and adolescents can also benefit from discussing political issues.

The scientists say that children whose parents discuss politics with them are less likely to experiment with risky behaviours such as drugs and violence.

Zimmerman says, “Having parents engage kids in how they are thinking about voting and expressing their right to vote is helpful for kids to prepare them for that piece of being active, engaged citizens of their country.”

“Parents don’t realise that even though kids can’t vote, they can learn about the voting process and learn about how their parents think about different issues. There is also some evidence that talking about politics may help kids become better critical thinkers and help parents build communication patterns with their kids.”

Zimmerman says many parents shy away from talking about politics at home, but that may inadvertently send the message that politics and voting aren’t important.

He urged parents to take their children with them to their local polling station on Election Day, so they can see democracy in action.

The experts, however, admit that even though voting and better health are not directly related, it has only been proved to improve mental health. For instance, casting your vote tomorrow is not going to lower your blood glucose or cure you of diabetes. But psychologists say it will definitely release endorphins, the feel good hormone which has been shown to boost mood, sexual heath and relieve stress any time you think about the elections in the next four years.

Wow! What benefits! If you have your Permanent Voter Card and you are where you can vote tomorrow, please defy the sun, rain and the expected queue to cast your vote.

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