2016 election linked to jump in heart attacks, strokes at California health system

Hospitalizations for stroke and heart attacks jumped after the 2016 presidential election at a large health system in Southern California, suggesting that politically related stress may influence health, according to a study published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston and Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente conducted the study. They examined hospitalization rates for acute cardiovascular events at Pasadena-based Kaiser Permanente Southern California before and after the 2016 presidential election.

In the two days immediately after the election, the hospitalization rate for cardiac events such as heart attacks and strokes was 573.14 per 100,000 person years. Person years is a measure that accounts for both the number of people in a study and the amount of time each person spends in the study.

On the same two days a week before the election, the hospitalization rate was only 353.75 per 100,000 person years. Researchers found heart attack risk increased after the 2016 election regardless of a patient's age, sex or racial/ethinic group.

"This is a wake-up call for every health professional that we need to pay greater attention to the ways in which stress linked to political campaigns, rhetoric and election outcomes can directly harm health," study author David Williams, PhD, the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health at Harvard Chan School, said in a news release.

View the full study here.

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