How voter turnout varies between different chronic conditions? A population-based register study

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Abstract

Background

While poor self-rated health is known to decrease an individual's propensity to vote, disaggregation of the components of health on turnout has thus far received only little attention. This study deepens on the understanding of such relationships by examining the association between chronic diseases and voting.

Methods

The study uses an individual-level register-based data set that contains an 11% random sample of the entire electorate in the 1999 Finnish parliamentary elections. With information on hospital discharge diagnoses and reimbursements for drugs prescribed, we identify persons with chronic hospital-treated diseases (coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, depression, cancer, psychotic mental disease, diabetes, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic disease, epilepsy, arthrosis, alcoholism, dementia, atherosclerosis, Parkinson's disease, other degenerative brain diseases, multiple sclerosis and kidney disease).

Results

After adjusting for gender, age, education, occupational class, income, partnership status, cohabitation with underaged children and hospitalisation during Election Day, neurodegenerative brain diseases had the strongest negative relationship with voting (dementia OR=0.20, 95% CI 0.18 to 0.22; others up to OR=0.70). Alcoholism (OR=0.66) and mental disorders also had a negative association (depression OR=0.91; psychotic mental disease OR=0.79), whereas cancer and COPD/asthma had a positive association (both OR=1.05). Having more than one condition at a time further decreased voting probability.

Conclusions

By showing how different health conditions are related to voter turnout, this study provides essential information for identifying gaps in the potential for political participation and for further inquiries aiming to develop models that explain the link between health and voting probability.

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