Voting and Health

Teens and young adults who vote are more likely to have positive health, educational, and economic outcomes over their lifespan. For example, even after correcting for selection bias, youth voting predicts increased personal and household income levels, higher levels of education, abstinence from heavy drinking and smoking, and less symptoms of depression. They are also more likely to vote in future elections. Family civic engagement makes young voters more likely to vote and multiplies the volume of voices at the ballot box. 

Voting is also closely tied to health equity. Young people and people of color, as well as people who have low incomes, unstable housing, disabilities, or limited English proficiency, are underrepresented among the voting electorate. People in prison or on parole, children, and non-naturalized immigrants are systematically excluded from voting. Thus, their interests are underrepresented politically. These same groups of people experience a heavy burden of diseases rooted in policy-level decisions. The inverse is also true: states with higher levels of political participation have higher self-reported health. Widespread civic engagement holds promise to reduce health disparities rooted in structural and political inequity locally in and nationwide. 

For more information on youth voting and related health and life outcomes, check out the recommended reading list below. 

Reading List

Youth voting and health outcomes

  • Ballard PJ, Hoyt LT, Pachucki MC. Impacts of Adolescent and Young Adult Civic Engagement on Health and Socioeconomic Status in Adulthood. Child Development. doi:10.1111/cdev.12998
  • Wray-Lake L, Shubert J, Lin L, Starr LR (2019). Examining associations between civic engagement and depressive symptoms from adolescence to young adulthood in a national U.S. sample. Applied Developmental Science. 23(2):119-131. doi:10.1080/10888691.2017.1326825
  • Blakeley, T.,  Kennedy, B., Kawachi, I. (2001). “Socioeconomic inequality in voting participation and self-rated health.” American Journal of Public Health. (1): 99–104. doi:10.2105/ajph.91.1.99

Youth voting behavior 

Voter engagement in medical settings

  • Lickiss S, Lowery L, Triemstra JD. Voter Registration and Engagement in an Adolescent and Young Adult Primary Care Clinic (2019). J Adolesc Health. ;0(0). doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2019.11.316 
  • Liggett A, Sharma M, Nakamura Y, Villar R, Selwyn P (2014). Results of a Voter Registration Project at 2 Family Medicine Residency Clinics in the Bronx, New York. Ann Fam Med. ;12(5):466-469. doi:10.1370/afm.1686

The VOICE Project team is actively working on this page! Have a suggestion for resources we should add relating to voting and health? Please reach out to us at [email protected]. We would love to hear from you!