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2016 Presidential Election Associated with Increase in Heart Attacks, HSPH Study Finds

The study, published last week in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, was co-authored by Harvard School of Public Health professor David R. Williams and instructor Elizabeth Mostofsky.
The study, published last week in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, was co-authored by Harvard School of Public Health professor David R. Williams and instructor Elizabeth Mostofsky. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Ellen M. Burstein and Ema R. Schumer, Crimson Staff Writers

The days immediately following the 2016 presidential election saw an uptick in hospitalizations for acute cardiovascular disease from the week prior, Harvard researchers have found.

The study, published last week in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, was co-authored by Harvard School of Public Health professor David R. Williams and instructor Elizabeth Mostofsky.

The authors noted that, while previous research suggests certain events can trigger potentially lethal acute cardiovascular disease episodes such as strokes and heart attacks “within hours to days,” scant research has been conducted on the effects of socio-political events — including presidential elections.

The researchers compared hospitalization rates for acute cardiovascular disease at Kaiser Permanente Southern California — an integrated health system — in the days before and after the 2016 election. They found that the rate of hospitalizations across the two days following Election Day was 1.62 times higher than the rate of patients who were admitted for similar issues on those same calendar days the week before.

As the nation gears up for another presidential election during a global pandemic, the team’s findings may be of increasing concern to America’s health care providers. The next presidential election will take place on Nov. 3 — less than a month away.

Ultimately, the authors noted that more research should be conducted to examine the intersection of sociopolitical events and cardiovascular disease.

“Transiently heightened cardiovascular risk around the 2016 election may be attributable to sociopolitical stress,” the paper states. “Further research is needed to understand the intersection between major sociopolitical events, perceived stress, and acute CVD.”

—Staff writer Ellen M. Burstein can be reached at ellen.burstein@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @ellenburstein.
—Staff writer Ema R. Schumer can be reached at ema.schumer@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @emaschumer.

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School of Public HealthScience2016 Election