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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).


Civic Engagement Risk/Pro

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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.


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