The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.

When Politics Is Harmful to Your Health

People of all political stripes experience anxiety and alienation — the question is how we address it.

By Crawford Kilian 18 Jul 2017 |

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

A century of research has shown that economic inequality is disastrous for public health: where the gap between rich and poor is wide, the poor live shorter, less healthy lives than the rich. Less well known is the fact that even political events like elections can affect people’s health — especially when the outcome of an election makes them feel marginalized and threatened.

This was brought out in a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine. Authors David R. Williams and Morgan M. Medlock point out that “Campaigns that give voice to the disenfranchised have been found to have positive but short-term effects on health.” They cite the impact of Nelson Mandela’s 1994 election on black South Africans’ health, and of Barack Obama’s 2008 nomination and campaign for the presidency on the health of Hispanic and black Americans.

“Thus,” the authors conclude, “increases in psychological well-being, pride, and hope for the future are likely to be evident among Donald Trump supporters.”

But for those who feel threatened by Trump’s tweets and promises, serious health issues are likely to persist. Williams and Medlock warn that “The presidential candidacy of Donald Trump appeared to bring further to the surface preexisting hostile attitudes toward racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and Muslims.” They cite posts on Daily Stormer saying: “We want these people to feel unwanted. We want them to feel everything around them is against them. And we want them to be afraid.”

Meanwhile, “the Southern Poverty Law Centre has documented an increase in incidents of harassment and hateful intimidation since Trump’s election.”

Such incidents don’t just upset those they’re aimed at. They actually change people’s body chemistry: “incidents of racial discrimination experienced by teenagers predicted flatter diurnal cortisol slopes and lower cortisol awakening response in young adulthood, elevated levels of endocrine, cardiovascular, and metabolic parameters at age 20, as well as epigenetic patterns of aging at age 22.”

Cortisol is an adrenal hormone, produced in response to stress. It reduces inflammation but weakens the immune system, reduces bone formation, and slows the healing of wounds. So the poor predictably suffer more stress, produce more cortisol, get sick, recover slowly, and often self-medicate with everything from booze to opioids to violence. They die much sooner than the rich.

And these are the conditions of the poor under “liberal” governments that oppose religious and racial discrimination and pay lip service to equality. Under reactionary regimes, the poor suffer even more.

‘I love the poorly educated’

Much of the American middle class is now finding out how the poor live — and for similar reasons. Stuck with stagnant incomes and precarious jobs, they face the prospect of losing Obamacare and Medicare, which means a single serious health problem in a family could plunge it into poverty. Similarly, many successful Americans now find themselves the targets of people they’d never noticed before: anti-Semites, neo-Nazis, anti-intellectuals (“I love the poorly educated,” Trump crowed during the 2016 campaign).

Supposedly all those backward thugs had long ago been eradicated from the world’s greatest democracy. Now the thugs were coming out of the sewers, hunting for Muslims, blacks, and professors. And democratically elected white men in suits were implicitly encouraging them.

Williams and Medlock offer some advice to healthcare providers for dealing with the consequences of Trump’s election: listen to their anxious patients, protest against hate crimes, strengthen alliances with community organizations, and become better advocates.

All good ideas, no doubt, as is their proposal to do research studies “that systematically assess the health effects of the societal climate and policies.” Assuming such studies even got funding, their results would not be known for years — and would likely be dismissed as fake news by some future ruler in the Trump dynasty.

Public health for our adversaries as well

If stress, anxiety and alienation are at bottom problems in public health, society must find a way cure them for everyone — not just for the people on one’s own side. It was precisely by ignoring white working-class stress and alienation that U.S. liberals encouraged the rise of Trump and his backers.

So if American liberals really want to get back in power, they’ll have to understand that they need to bring working-class white and all the other marginals with them: the unemployed coal miners, the opioid addicts, the single mothers and many more.

It will not be an easy job; the political gaps in the U.S. are as painfully wide as they were in the days of Jim Crow a century ago. Finding common ground will be hard when one side doesn’t even believe much in science, public health, or equality. But the benefits of a healthy, secure population are so self-evident (at least to the liberal side) that the liberals will have to grit their teeth and actually talk with their Trumpist fellow-citizens.

And Canadians, faced with growing inequality and alienation, had better start talking seriously with one another as well.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: What Coverage Would You Like to See More of This Year?

Take this week's poll