We are still be one year away from the 2012 presidential election, which, if any of the recent data is accurate, promises to be a contentious one. But as The New York Times reports, today’s local elections will cause voters to experience stress.

Multiple studies have confirmed that voters experience higher levels of cortisol — a hormone secreted by the adrenal gland and specifically related to stress — and especially when a vote is hotly contested or when they are voting for the underdog.

“We must understand that emotions are not merely feelings; often they carry with them a physio-endocrinal component, which itself has the potential to biologically affect decision-making at the ballot box,” said the authors of a 2009 Israeli study, which conducted the cortisol experiment during what was a very intense election for the country.

American researchers found similar findings in the 2008 election between President Obama and Sen. John McCain: Saliva samples indicated that McCain supporters’ cortisol levels fluctuated more than Obama supporters when receiving election results.

Researcher Israel Waismel-Manor of the 2009 study said even the act of going to a voting site can stress voters out so much that they alter their ballot.

“We go to a public place where there are lots of strangers, people who probably do not know me, will check my ID and determine if I can vote, I may face a long line, and I really want to get back to watch the game, I will probably run into Aunt Edna, and I hate her guts, etc.,” Waismel-Manor said.

Read the rest of The New York Times article

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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