While there are many obvious political differences between liberals and conservatives, researchers may have identified a mental difference as well. A study performed by researchers at the Center for American Discourse, a nonpartisan think tank, found that participants who described themselves as liberal were more likely to suffer from mental health issues than participants who self identified as conservative. Participants who described themselves as ‘very liberal’ were nearly three times more likely to suffer from some form of mental issue.
While this association has been suggested in the past, this study was the first to use what are considered to be the ‘gold standard’ techniques for large scale population studies. Researchers tracked nearly 75,000 study participants over the course of two years through a combination of written surveys, phone interviews, and in person health evaluations. The size of the study and thoroughness of the approach allowed researchers to draw more definitive conclusions than previous studies, which have relied on online surveys and anecdotal evidence.
Study director Dr. William LaSange said he was somewhat surprised by the results of the study:
“When you are starting a study of this magnitude, you try not to bias yourself with what I call ‘folk knowledge’. These are ideas that we may think as a society, but no one has ever done the actual study. As a scientist, you must ensure that you design the experiment to find the truth. Honestly, I am always surprised when the data support the folk knowledge.”
While the study establishes a clear link between mental frailty and liberal political leanings, Dr. LaSange stressed that this study can only be used to demonstrate a correlation between liberalism and a propensity for mental health issues. It does not necessarily indicate that being liberal causes mental health issues or that mental health issues causes a person to become liberal. However, Dr, LaSange and his staff hope that this study can bring more awareness to the mental suffering of liberals.
“If your liberal friends are always a bit “off”, please try to have a little empathy. There just seems to be some connection between these liberal beliefs and a lack of mental stability. Try to have some compassion.”
Dr. LaSange asks the community to use the hashtag #cureforwellness to help bring awareness to the issue.