It could be that this election cycle is stressing you out. University of Nebraska – Omaha Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology Dr. Jeffrey French took part in a research project that focused on the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. The tested the cortisol levels of subjects several times while watching two presidential debates. Just over 200 participated in this experiment. One issue was the impact stress has on voting in general.
Dr. French says, “People with high levels of base-line cortisol in the afternoon vote half as often as people with lower levels and these are national level elections.” He says they do know from clinical studies that high level of afternoon cortisol are associated with higher rates of social anxiety, a predictor of depressive disorder and in children higher levels of disruptive behavior.
They also wanted to find out who had a higher spike in the stress hormone – supporters of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Dr. French says, “As a hole, on average, those supporting Trump had cortisol levels that were twice as high as those individuals that were supporting Hillary Clinton who in turn had higher levels than people who were supporting third party candidates or who were undecided.”
Dr. French says this was not a carefully controlled experiment. The major result they found on cortisol based on candidate affiliation has to be taken with “a grain of salt”.