By Margie Finkelnburg
The presidential election is just around the corner and you might be surprised to find that heading to the polling station can actually boost your health! Voting won’t lower your cholesterol or make that cold go away faster, but it could help you lose a few pounds, lower your blood pressure or even make strides toward kicking depression.
How? Well the link is definitely not direct. But according to a study run by Dr. Lynn Sanders, PhD, at the University of Virginia, people who vote feel like they are helping to make a difference in their lives. And when people feel empowered – like they control their destinies in some way – that can have benefits in other areas. Feelings of empowerment can lead to a more positive outlook, and optimism has been linked to everything from lower rates of coronary artery disease to better cancer recovery rates. A 2010 study published in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, looked at over 90,000 women and found that the more cynical study participants had higher rates of coronary heart disease, and higher cancer rates. Those with a positive outlook fared better.
Regardless of your political beliefs, expressing those beliefs through our system of democratic elections can allow you to affect the outcome of your life and the lives of those you love. Voting is a powerful action, and people who vote should rightfully come away from the experience feeling powerful.
Voting might even make you feel younger. This idea is based on a 2010 Penn State study that found that people who believed that their actions strongly influenced the outcomes in their lives reported feeling younger regardless of their chronological age. Another paper published in Psychological Science, a journal for the Association of Psychological Science, stated that people who feel powerful actually overestimate their height in many cases.
In addition, there have been many studies demonstrating direct links between optimism, feelings of empowerment and improved mental and physical health. It isn’t too far a reach to suggest that voting, an act that allows them to be directly involved in their communities, would give them that feeling that they can make a difference.
Though there is certainly no direct correlation between these studies and voting, why wouldn’t you cast your vote on Election Day if there were even a small chance you might come out of the booth feeling younger, happier and even taller?
Margie oversees Molina Advocates, and Molina Political Action Committee (PAC). Both programs encourage employees to get involved in the legislative and political process. As an election official in her hometown of Alexandria, Virginia, she believes voting is a precious privilege and we should use it whenever given the opportunity.