In the aftermath of the 2016 elections, many Americans reported elevated stress levels, which some referred to as “ post-election stress disorder. ”
A number of psychologists joined the term, confirming that their clients were unusually tense, but others clapped back saying that PTSD was downplaying to call this stress a “disorder.”
Now a new study is trying to find out who was really pushed to an emotional edge by the election and whose stress was more akin to political outrage.
Researchers at Stanford University and Microsoft analyzed post-election searchers for mental health help and found that while Democrats’ stress did not rise to a mental health problem, Latinos did.
Many Americans reported that their mental health suffered after the election of Donald Trump in 2016. New research on online search data suggests it was ‘real’ for Latinos – but Democrats weren’t looking for more information about depression, anxiety, or therapy
Research has shown that violence is increasing in cities that have organized campaign meetings on behalf of Trump, while other studies have shown that women are more likely to opt for long-term birth control after promising to appeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which denies access to short-acting contraceptives.
Meanwhile, the economy rose to the heels of Trump’s promises to make the best deals.
In addition, there were reports of paralyzing anxiety, news fatigue, emotional eating to cope and ‘post-election stress disorder’.
‘Emergency’ is much more difficult to measure than other aspects of society after an election, such as concrete data about the economy, the number of violent attacks and contraceptive choices.
Dr. Jennifer Sweeton wrote a Psychology Today article about “post-election stress disorder,” and CNN and Kaiser Health News reported that the number of people who made agreements with the sole therapy platform Talkspace tripled after the election.
Some suggested that they saw this suffering with customers of all political affiliations.
But – like even Dr. Sweeton notes – post-election stress disorder is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the laundry list of psychologists with mental illness.
The team of Microsoft and Stanford employees went a step further, wondering if the increase in mental health problems Americans reported – both anecdotally on social media and in surveys – was purely psychological or perhaps some form of political speech.
In particular, they wondered about “Democrats and Spanish-speaking Latinos.”
They compared more than a million Bing searches for pre- and post-Democratic mental health assistance compared to Republicans and Hispanics compared to English speakers.
Democrats, they discovered, did no more online searchers related to mental health than before, and their searches remained as high as ever compared to republicans.
Women no longer searched for ‘anxiety’, ‘depression’ or the names of antidepressants after the election, and the number of suicide seekers declined.
But women more often searched for ‘stress or therapy’.
However, the election had real mental health implications for Spanish speakers, according to Stanford and Microsoft methodology.
For five of the six search terms the study authors used to gauge mental health issues – suicide / suicide, anxiety, depression, antidepression / anxiety disorders, minus therapy – Hispanic speakers made significantly more online searchers after the election.
“This clear and consistent result shows that Spanish-speaking seekers, and Latino by proxy, were indeed more likely to search for mental health terms after the election than before, while English-speaking seekers did not show consistent change,” he said. Sage Journals.
Admittedly, other groups may have expressed their stress to therapists if they already had them, to friends and family, through activism or not at all.
For their part, the study authors believed that “ some Democrats reported mental health deterioration after Trump’s election as a form of reverse cheerleading, with Partisans reporting evaluations more negative than their true beliefs to reflect poorly on a president of the opposition party. ”
But for Latinos and Hispanic speakers – some of whom promised Trump to build a wall to keep them out and called them ‘rapists’ – the anxiety and mental health issues that followed the election were very real, the study said.