Civic engagement includes any activities performed by an individual or group to identify and address matters of public concern (1). This can be a political (voting) or non-political activity (volunteering, charitable giving).
Risk and/or Protective Factor
People experiencing mental health difficulties are less likely to vote in elections (2). Furthermore, people with mental health difficulties can be excluded from voting based on a perception of incompetence (3). This can have negative effects on the shaping of policies and legislations promoting mental health.
Political activism can be both a protective and a risk factor for mental health. Exposure to activism in childhood has been associated with providing people with resilience, a sense of belonging and a sense of empowerment, which are protective factors for mental health (4). On the other hand, political activism can also be a source of trauma, and thus a risk factor (5).
Volunteering is a protective factor for mental health. It has been associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms (6). Similarly, charitable giving has been associated with a positive effect on mental well-being (7).
1. American Psychological Association. Civic Engagement [Internet]. 2009 [cited 2021 Jan 11]. Available from: https://www.apa.org/education/undergrad/civic-engagement
2. Denny KJ, Doyle OM. “...Take up thy bed, and vote” Measuring the relationship between voting behaviour and indicators of health. Eur J Public Health [Internet]. 2007 Mar 28 [cited 2021 Feb 25];17(4):400–1. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/eurpub/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/eurpub/ckm002
3. Okwerekwu JA, McKenzie JB, Yates KA, Sorrentino RM, Friedman SH. Voting by People with Mental Illness. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law Online [Internet]. 2018 Oct 31;JAAPL.003780-18. Available from: http://jaapl.org/content/early/2018/10/31/JAAPL.003780-18.abstract
4. Gal S, Hanley J. The Long-Term Impact of Political Activism on Mental Wellbeing in the Context of Adult Immigrants Who Experienced Childhood Political Trauma. J Immigr Minor Heal [Internet]. 2020 Oct 1 [cited 2021 Feb 9];22(5):982–7. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-019-00962-x
5. Matthies-Boon V. Shattered worlds: political trauma amongst young activists in post-revolutionary Egypt. J North African Stud [Internet]. 2017 Aug 8 [cited 2021 Feb 9];22(4):620–44. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=fnas20
6. Kim J, Pai M. Volunteering and Trajectories of Depression. J Aging Health [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2021 Feb 1];22(1):84–105. Available from: http://jah.sagepub.com
7. Choi NG, Kim J. The effect of time volunteering and charitable donations in later life on psychological wellbeing. Ageing Soc. 2011 May 1;31(4):590–610.