healthHealth and Medicine

Here's How The Trump Election And Brexit Votes Impacted Everybody's Health

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockMay 3 2018, 16:45 UTC

The results of the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US election were a bit of a shock to say the least.

On one side of the Atlantic, the public voted to leave an organization they'd been a part of for decades with no idea of what the alternatives might look like. On the other, a reality TV star with several failed businesses and a track record of misogyny and other questionable views got elected into the highest office in the land. The results were not predicted by the pollsters, and very few people saw them coming.


If you found yourself stressed and losing sleep after the results came in, it turns out you were not alone. A new study using data from 11,600 health-monitoring devices has found that people's biorhythms changed after the election of Trump and the Brexit result.

The researchers looked at data from wearers of health-monitoring devices made by Nokia, between April 2016 and April 2017. They found that as well as sleeping patterns being disrupted by the results, swathes of the population's heart-rate and exercise patterns were affected by these big societal events.

The dates of the referendum, US election, and Christmas and New Year are marked to show how people reacted to each event. Nokia Bell Labs / arXiv.

The researchers, who published their results on arXiv, saw normal changes in people's heart rates during events like New Year's Eve and Christmas. They tended to go up around these holidays and return to normal shortly afterward.


However, after Brexit and the election of Trump to President, people's heart rates took longer to return to normal. In San Francisco, where the American half of the data was collected, heart rates rose from an average of 66 beats per minute to 70 beats per minute on election day. Four months later, people's heart rates still hadn't returned to normal, pre-election figures, New Scientist reports.

Sleep and exercise were thrown by the votes too. One in eight people monitored in London got 10 percent less sleep following the Brexit referendum results, while overall, one in eight experienced disruptions to their sleep patterns, heart rates, and physical activity levels after the vote.

The team accounted for factors such as weather and new users of the Nokia device, leaving chronic societal-level stress as the most obvious cause of the changes to people's normal biorhythms.


"Our body's natural rhythms get disrupted for a variety of external factors, including exposure to collective events," the researchers wrote in their paper.

"While Christmas and New Year's eve are associated with short-term effects, Brexit and Trump's election are associated with longer-term disruptions. Our results promise to inform the design of new ways of monitoring population health at scale."

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