Losing Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

obama re-election

(CNN) — I will be as thrilled — or disappointed — by the results of the presidential election as the next guy.

But I have to caution you against letting your emotions get too carried away by the election results — especially if you are a man. It could be bad for your health.

To put it bluntly: being on a losing team can be deadly.

I had been a psychiatrist studying the effects of emotion on health for many years before I discovered this incredible fact. I knew all about the myriad studies in animals and humans that show that losing in personal confrontations can negatively impact health. But I had no idea how far the dangers of losing reached.

Does it seem preposterous that supporting the losing side of a presidential election could be dangerous for your health?

Ask yourself whether you care as much about the election results as you do about your favorite sports team. If you do, then I want to suggest you are in some danger.

Study after study shows that death rates spike in cities that lose important sporting events. Most of the deaths are from sudden heart attacks and related cardiovascular events, suggesting that people get so upset when their side loses that it literally breaks their hearts.

I want to recommend that if you are on the winning side of the election, you temper your hopes, because your candidate may not fulfill them to your satisfaction.

If you are on the losing side, consider the fact that the future is unknown, that sometimes good things come out of unfortunate events and that your candidate may have disappointed you in the end had he been elected (or re-elected).

In the end, healthy emotions are all about fighting for what one believes in while remaining open to the fact that one could be wrong.

It is about feeling passionately while at the same time retaining a perspective that allows one to benefit maximally no matter what life delivers. And it is about knowing when to feel bad and when feeling bad does nothing but hurt one’s health.

If you’re dealing with a loss — be it a candidate or a sports team — here are some coping tips:

  1. Be proactive. Don’t let yourself stay in a an emotional place dominated by feelings of hopelessness or powerlessness. Get involved in another activity or cause you care about.
  2. Take a break. Tune out — or turn off — the news and other sources of information that may make you feel worse right now.
  3. Talk about your feelings. Discuss with those who share your sadness — or those who take an opposite view. After an election, consider talking with with people on the other side, to see if you can gain a better understanding of how they see the world.

By Dr. Charles Raison

CNN Contributor

 

Editor’s note: Dr. Charles Raison, CNNhealth’s mental health expert, is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

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