Tuesday is Election Day, which means it's finally time to head to the polls to cast your vote in the presidential election (or maybe you've already turned in your early ballot!).
Helping to choose the next leader of this country, voting on vital propositions that affect the people in your community and participating in the democratic process are already reason enough to make your vote count. But, it turns out, there may be some health reasons to do so, too.
That's right: From mental health to public health to just general well-being, voting has been linked with positive outcomes in several studies. Click through the slideshow, then tell us in the comments: Have you voted yet? How'd it make you feel?
Strengthens Social Ties
Voting helps to <a href="http://bewell.stanford.edu/features/social-ties-good-health">strengthen our social ties</a>, and feeling part of a close-knit society is in turn linked with greater quality of life and longevity, according to Stanford researchers. In the book "Bowling Alone," Robert Putnam of Harvard noted that feeling included and tied to other people means that you'll be more likely to <a href="http://bewell.stanford.edu/features/social-ties-good-health">contribute to society</a>, the Stanford experts noted.
Linked With Reports Of Greater Health
A 2001 study in the <em>American Journal of Public Health</em> shows that people are more likely to self-report "fair" or "poor" health in states where there's <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446487/">below-average voter turnout</a>. "Socioeconomic inequality in political participation (as measured by voter turnout) is associated with poor self-rated health, independently of both income inequality and state median household income," Harvard researchers wrote in the study. The <em>Philadelphia Inquirer</em> reported two <a href="http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/public_health/Could-simply-voting--for-Obama-OR-Romney--impact-a-communitys-health.html">possible explanations</a> for this link: <blockquote>Kawachi and colleagues keyed in two possible explanations. The first is that when fewer poor people vote, there is less public support for programs and policies, such as welfare and job training, that help those with fewer resources. As a result, their health suffers overall. A related explanation is that participation in voting is a form of social capital, a key but sometimes hard-to-define concept in public health.</blockquote>
Good For Mental Health
People who vote could help to <a href="http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/voting-counts-as-healthy-habit">lower stress</a> and even ward off future mental health conditions like depression, among people who are at risk for the conditions, WebMD pointed out. Specifically, researcher Lynn Sanders, Ph.D., an associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia, told WebMD that, "I think that people who are on the wrong sides of the disadvantage divide, measured according to anything -- health, income, quality of community, or job status -- those are the people who <a href="http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/voting-counts-as-healthy-habit">stand to benefit most</a>."
Sets A Good Example For The Kids
Kids may not be able to actually put in their vote, but they <em>can</em> <a href="http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/voting-counts-as-healthy-habit">see their parents vote</a>, which could help to open dialogue about issues affecting society today, WebMD pointed out. "Parents don't realize that even though kids can't vote they can <a href="http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/voting-counts-as-healthy-habit">learn about the voting process</a> and learn about how their parents think about different issues," Marc Zimmerman, a psychologist and professor at the University of Michigan, told WebMD. "There is also some evidence that talking about politics may help kids become better critical thinkers and help parents build communication patterns with their kids."
Political Activism Boosts Well-Being And Life Satisfaction
Going a step further than voting and <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/making-a-difference-makes-you-happy">being politically active</a> is linked with greater well-being and life satisfaction, according to research reported by <em>YES!</em> magazine. Tim Kasser, Ph.D., who was the author of a study in the journal <em>Political Psychology</em> wrote in <em>YES!</em> about the research that shows an <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/making-a-difference-makes-you-happy">association between political activism</a> and feelings of freedom, positive emotions and well-being. He told <em>YES!</em>: <blockquote>Politicians and activists typically attempt to motivate ordinary citizens to participate in democracy on the basis of moral appeals or attempts to fix a problem. Our results suggest that it might also be worthwhile to highlight the internal rewards citizens can obtain from being politically engaged: A sense of satisfaction, the experience of pleasant emotions and of connection with others, and a feeling of aliveness.</blockquote>