SA’s politics is making us sick – literally


SA’s politics is making us sick – literally

Survey reveals how citizens are suffering from politically induced sleepless nights and stress about our future

Senior reporter

South Africans are dangerously close to a politically driven emotional meltdown with the elections just two days away.
An online survey that polled 1,900 people from across the country shows citizens are seriously stressed out about the upcoming vote and are suffering from “politically related” insomnia.
The findings of the poll, conducted by Pharma Dynamics, say independent psychologists, rings true for many of their patients.
Pharma Dynamics mental health portfolio manager Shouqat Mugjenker said of those surveyed, 40% (760) suffered from “politics-related” insomnia, while 30% (570) were stressed about the upcoming elections.
“From those polled, more than 75% (1,425) said they regarded the country’s future as a significant stress source, with more than 66% (1,254) stressed about the current political situation.
“The results, especially the findings about insomnia and what is currently causing people to suffer from it [insomnia], were surprising.”
He said the idea for the survey came from conversations he and colleagues had about the country and politics.
“We know from Stats SA data that one in three South Africans suffers from stress and anxiety, which is in line with the World Health Organisation’s figures on the global level of stress. What we wanted to look at was how politics plays into and impacts this.”
Mugjenker said the survey showed that with the elections approaching, people’s stress levels were rising.
“People are not so much stressed about the actual election day, but rather about what comes after the election once the outcomes are known.
“When we took apart the findings, driving people’s stress was how much political news is out there and how they consume it [political news] especially through social media, which is often done shortly before they go to bed.
“It is the consumption of political news before bedtime that is driving the high levels of what we call ‘politically related’ insomnia.”
He said the survey also revealed the extent other political stresses – such as corruption, poverty and poor governance – had on people, with many of these a prelude to people’s election stresses.
“Those surveyed expressed serious concerns about the impact of continuous bailouts of state-owned entities such as Eskom.”
Mugjenker said they also looked at the reasons South Africans were choosing to move abroad, rather than stay and try to deal with the ongoing stresses.
“Many people feel they are being driven to move overseas because of the high level of corruption, rising crime rate, job and education prospects, lack of accountability and poor governance and the stresses they suffer from these.”
He said South Africans’ political stresses compared equally to those people living in the UK and the US suffered from around Brexit and President Donald Trump.
He said while most political anxiety was not clinical, it was not easy to deal with.
“If politics is getting you down, talk to friends about how you’re feeling.”
Johannesburg-based counselling psychologist Dr Ingrid Artus said many of the patients she saw were stressed about the outcome of the elections, the country’s future and the impact of this on their family’s lives.
“People’s anxiety levels are definitely rising as voting day approaches. While people have a semblance of control on voting day, they feel uncertain about the lack of control they have over the future until the next election in five years’ time.
“People’s economic stresses, which are driven by the rising price of petrol, food and electricity, are also rising.”
Psychiatrist Toni Slavova said the stress among South Africans, especially young people, was high, especially around the future of the country.
“People are experiencing a big sense of helplessness, especially with our country’s chaotic social-political environment.
“There is no doubt that there is an increase in people experiencing anxiety and depression from teachers to police and those who work in the corporate environment.”

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