2016 election negatively affected psychological well being of Muslim faculty college students

2016 election negatively affected mental health of Muslim college students

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The 2016 presidential election was linked to a significant decline in mental health among Muslim college students, with religious Muslims seeing the largest decline in mental health, according to a University of Michigan researcher.

Sara Renee Abelson, PhD student at UM School of Public Health and colleagues found that the proportion of Muslim students with clinically significant mental health symptoms compared to changes in all other students when comparing data from the 14 months after publication 7 percentage points increased – selection compared to the 14 months before.

Before the election, 22% of Muslim students tested positive for depression, anxiety or eating disorders, compared with 34% afterwards. Among non-Muslims, the proportion of students who tested positive for a mental disorder increased from 21% before the election to 26% after the election.

The results underline the connections between socio-political events and mental health with possible negative consequences for the educational and social outcomes of the groups concerned. This is evident from the study published in JAMA Pediatrics this month.

"Schools and other communities need to consider these concerns in their efforts to support young adults, and researchers should improve understanding of causal mechanisms and possible prevention and intervention strategies," said Abelson, lead author of the study.

"Our results suggest that choosing a politician who uses racist rhetoric and promotes exclusionary policies can damage the mental health of young people in the target audience."

Abelson and colleagues used survey data from a random sample of students aged 18 and over from 90 colleges and universities who participated in the Healthy Minds Study in the 14 months before and after the election. The biggest declines in mental health were:

  • Religious Muslims: 11 percentage points
  • Non-religious Muslims: 8 percentage points
  • Religious non-Muslims: 3.5 percentage points
  • Non-religious non-Muslims: 2.8 percentage points

Abelson said mental health is an important part of overall health and wellbeing.

"Mental health is also related to great outcomes such as academic achievement, career achievement, lifetime income, and more," she said. "Untreated symptoms have many downstream effects."

Abelson hopes the study will encourage anyone serving young people to consider the potential psychological consequences of the 2020 election and proactively support the students most affected by hateful rhetoric and exclusionary measures.

Social isolation that causes mental health problems among university students

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University of Michigan

Study: The 2016 elections had a negative impact on the mental health of Muslim students (2020, October 5).
accessed on October 5, 2020
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