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Health and voting over the course of adulthood: Evidence from two British birth cohorts.


ABSTRACT: Systematic differences in voter turnout limit the capacity of public institutions to address the needs of under-represented groups. One critical question relates to the role of health as a mechanism driving these inequalities. This study explores the associations of self-rated health (SRH) and limitations in everyday activities with voting over the course of adulthood in the 1958 National Child Development Study and the 1970 British Cohort Study. We used data from participants who reported voting in the last general election at least once between the ages of 23 and 55 in the 1958 cohort and between the ages of 30 and 42 in the 1970 cohort. We examined associations controlling for a range of early-life and adult circumstances using random-effects models. Compared with those in good or better health: those in fair health had 15% and 18% lower odds of voting in the 1958 and 1970 cohorts; those in poor or worse health had 17% and 32% lower odds of voting in the 1958 and 1970 cohorts. These effects varied with age and were most marked among those in poor health at the ages of 23/30 in the 1958 and 1970 cohorts. Controlling for SRH, having limitations in everyday activities was not associated with voting in main models. Examining age-based differences, however, we found that reporting limitations was associated with a higher probability of voting at the age of 55 in the 1958 cohort and at the age of 30 in the 1970 cohort. Building on the qualities of the British birth cohorts, we offer nuanced evidence about the role of health on voting, which involves considerable life-course processes. Future studies need to examine how these findings progress after the age of 55, extend to mental wellbeing and health practices, and contribute to explain social inequalities in voter turnout.

SUBMITTER: Gagne T 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC7211898 | BioStudies | 2020-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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