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Politics and health outcomes in Sweden: Does voter turnout influence health? A path analysis approach
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Global Health.
2019 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Background: Previous studies on politics and health heavily stems from research by Navarro et al and Mackenbach et al. Their findings have shown that political traditions have influenced implementation of health-policies differently, which have had impacts on health outcomes. While previous authors have approached the subject of politics and health by studying political traditions, I wished to examine whether political participation in the shape of voter turnout, had any influence on health. Thus, the objective of this study was to examine if voter turnout was associated to health, and if the labour market, welfare state and the level of socioeconomic inequalities mediated this possible relationship, in the context of Sweden.

Methods: Aggregated data on county level (in total 21) was used to perform the analysis. Variables used included voter turnout, unemployment, non-eligibility to enter upper secondary school, trust towards health care, the Gini coefficient and the regional GDP per capita. The health outcomes included heart attack rate, overweight and psychosocial distress prevalence. The data was collected between the years of 2014-2018, and retrieved from Statistics Sweden, the Swedish National Agency for Education, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, the Public Health Agency of Sweden and the National Board of Health and Welfare. Path analysis, a form of structural equation modelling, was applied and direct, indirect and total effects were calculated in order to establish relationships.

Results: No relationship was found between voter turnout and health outcomes in the final model. However, associations were observed between unemployment and heart attack both in the female (b = -0.43, p = 0.027) and male population (b = -0.39, p = 0.043). Lack of education, in terms of non-eligibility to enter upper secondary school, was correlated to heart attack among women (b =0.63, p = 0.004) as well as among men (b = 0.65, p = 0.002). Both unemployment and lack of education were mediated by Gini and GDP. Gini and heart attack among women was directly correlated (b =-0.44, p = 0.011), likewise for men (b = -0.48, p = 0.003). Gini was also related to overweight among women (b =-0.50, p = 0.041). GDP showed an association between heart attack among the female (b =-0.40, p = 0.008) and the male population (b = -039, p = 0.006), respectively. Lastly, an observed negative correlation between GDP and overweight in men was detected (b =-0.26, p = 0.001).

Conclusion: This study concluded that health outcomes are not directly linked to political participation, in terms of voter turnout. Instead, the analysed health outcomes seemed to be mainly associated with unemployment, lack of education, and socioeconomic and income inequalities. Surprisingly, the results showed that unemployment seemed to decrease heart attack among both women and men. However, as lack of education increased, heart attack among women and men increased. It was also unexpected that high income inequalities (Gini) seemed to decrease heart attack among both women and men, as well among overweight women. Further research including sub-analysis, confounders and specific variables is required in order to confirm, or not, these findings.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. , p. 40
Series
Centre for Public Health Report Series, ISSN 1651-341X ; 2019:3
Keywords [en]
Voter turnout, health, health outcomes, politics, Sweden
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-165616OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-165616DiVA, id: diva2:1374278
Educational program
Master's Programme in Public Health
Presentation
2019-05-22, Room A312, Caring Sciences Building, Umeå University, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2019-12-02 Created: 2019-11-29 Last updated: 2019-12-02Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
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