Understanding how our mental health could impact on how we vote

As one of the most common medical conditions in the UK, does depression make a difference to people's voting behaviour? 

Given that depression can have an impact on how people react to change, researchers wanted to see whether depression had an effect on voting decisions, with a particular focus on the 2016 EU Referendum.

Using data from Understanding Society, researchers at the University of Essex and the University of Liverpool looked at people with and without depression, both before and after the EU referendum.

Dr Luca Bernardi, University of Liverpool, and Professor Robert Johns, University of Essex, explain what they found out: “The study found in advance of polling, those diagnosed with clinical depression were indeed much more likely to support Remain. But that gap closed after the referendum.

“So it looks as if pre-referendum hostility to Brexit owed less to the substance of the issue and more to opposing the upheaval of change. Once the Leave vote had shifted the psychological status quo, depression sufferers were less inclined to support a Remain option that had in some ways become the disruptive change.”

You can read more about this research on this University of Liverpool blog.

This research was also featured in the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Do voters need therapy?’ You can listen to the programme here