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Study shows high levels of depression and anxiety during 2020 presidential election

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A new study shows the 2020 presidential election had negative mental health outcomes. University of Nevada, Reno economics professor Sankar Mukhopadhyay authored the research.

Mukhopadhyay said anxiety and depression levels remained high from early November of 2020 leading up to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

“Normally, [for an] election, we think about is a day thing, but obviously in 2020, it was very different,” Mukhopadhyay said.

The stress from the uncertainty can be compared to waiting for results from a high-stakes exam or a medical diagnosis.

The study examines data from the Household Pulse Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. It collected information on the social and economic effects of COVID-19 on households across the country.

Mukhopadhyay said the most surprising part about the data is that anxiety and depression levels were higher around the election than in the early pandemic days of April 2020.

“I thought that people would be a lot more stressed in the early parts of COVID, where there was a lot of job loss, people did not know what COVID was,” Mukhopadhyay said.

The data also showed there was an increase in mental health care visits and prescription drug use following the election. He hopes there can be public health considerations.

“From this study, we cannot conclude that elections have a long-term effect,” Mukhopadhyay said. “There should be more public health outreach things, just like in other situations, people have advice on coping, on how to deal with other stressful events of life.”

The Census Bureau did not ask for party affiliation or if someone voted, but Mukhopadhyay said there was high stress across all demographics in red and blue states.

Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning political journalist and the host of KUNR’s monthly show Purple Politics Nevada. She is passionate about reporting during election season, attending community events, and talking to people about the issues that matter most to them.
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