With Election Day just weeks away, a new study shows that voting in national elections is actually a stressful event with measurable hormonal changes.
“Emotional changes are related and affect various physiological processes, but we were surprised that voting in national democratic elections causes emotional reactions accompanied by such physical and psychological stress that can easily influence our decision-making,” said Hagit Cohen, Ph.D., from the Anxiety and Stress Research Unit at Ben-Gurion University.
The study was conducted on Israel’s Election Day in 2009 with people who were on their way to vote.
They were asked to give a saliva sample for cortisol testing and to complete a questionnaire examining their emotional arousal at a stand that was placed 30 feet from the ballot box. Cortisol is a hormone secreted in times of stress to help the body cope with threats.
The control group consisted of other people from the same area who were asked to give a saliva test and complete the questionnaire on post-election day.
Researchers discovered that the level of cortisol was nearly three times higher just before voting than the cortisol level of the control group.
When checked 21 months later, the cortisol levels in the voters were nearly twice the level of the control group.
The study also found that people were more emotionally aroused just before casting their ballots.
“Since we do not like to feel stressed out, it is unclear whether this pressure on Election Day can influence people and cause them not to vote at all,” Cohen said.
He noted that the 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.”
The study was published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology.