The 2016 presidential election was linked to considerable mental health declines among Muslim college students, with religious Muslims seeing the largest declines in mental health, according to a University of Michigan researcher.
Sara Renee Abelson, a doctoral candidate at the U-M School of Public Health, and colleagues found that the proportion of Muslim students experiencing clinically significant mental health symptoms rose 7 percentage points over the changes experienced by all other students when comparing data from the 14 months post-election to the 14 months prior.
Before the election, 22% of Muslim students screened positive for depression, anxiety or an eating disorder, compared to 34% after. For non-Muslims, the portion of students who screened positive for a mental health disorder rose from 21% before the election to 26% after the election.
The findings highlight the links between sociopolitical events and mental health, with potential negative consequences for educational and social outcomes among affected groups, according to the study published this month in JAMA Pediatrics.
“Schools and other communities need to consider these concerns in their efforts to support young adults, and researchers should improve understanding of causal mechanisms and potential prevention and intervention strategies,” said Abelson, the study’s lead author.
“Our results suggest that the election of a politician who uses racist rhetoric and advances exclusionary policies may harm the mental health of young people in the targeted group.”