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1 May 2015 In sickness and in health
Peter Söderlund
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In search of a better understanding of inequalities in citizen political engagement, scholars have begun addressing the relationship between personal health and patterns of political behavior. This study focuses on the impact of personal health on various forms of political participation. The analysis contributes to existing knowledge by examining a number of different participation forms beyond just voting. Using European Social Survey data from 2012/2013 for Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden (N = 8,060), self-reported turnout and six alternative modes of political engagement were modeled as dependent variables. Contrary to expectations, poor health did not depress participation across all forms. As assumed by the increased activism hypothesis, all else equal, people with poor health were more active than their healthy counterparts in direct contacts with power holders and demonstrations. The results reveal a “reversed health gap” by showing that people with health problems are in fact more politically active than what previous research, which has focused on voting, has suggested. Although the magnitude of the gap should not be overdramatized, our results stress the importance of distinguishing between different forms of participation when analyzing the impact of health on political engagement. Nevertheless, the findings show that poor health can stimulate people into political engagement rather than depressing activity. This finding holds when the effects of several sociodemographic and motivational factors are controlled for.

Peter Söderlund "In sickness and in health," Politics and the Life Sciences 34(1), 28-43, (1 May 2015).
Published: 1 May 2015

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Nordic countries
political participation
resource theory
Self-rated health
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