Voting causes stress, Israeli researchers find

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Voting causes stress, inducing measurable hormonal changes, researchers in Israel found.

A study by researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev determined scientifically that thinking about walking into the voting booth releases a series of hormones such as cortisol, known as the “stress hormone."

"We understand that emotional changes are related and affect various physiological processes, but we were surprised that voting in democratic elections causes emotional reactions accompanied by such physical and psychological stress that can easily influence our decision making,” said Professor Hagit Cohen of the Anxiety and Stress Research Unit at BGU’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

In a study to be published in the print journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers found that the level of cortisol — a hormone secreted in times of stress to help the body cope with threats — was nearly three times higher just before voting than the cortisol level of the control group and nearly twice their level 21 months later.

The study was conducted on Israel’s Election Day in 2009 on 113 people who were on their way to vote. 

It also found that voters were more emotionally stimulated just before casting their ballot.

"Since we do not like to feel ‘stressed out,’ " Cohen said, "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 and projections.”
 

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