In Finland people with chronic conditions, in particular dementia and alcoholism, tend not to vote (see figure below). It is easy to understand why. What about pwMS? The good news is they tend to get out which means they are actively participating in politics; well at least in Finland they are. This is important. Finland is a liberal/social democracy and having a democratic say is important for people with chronic disease. This means pwMS are expressing themselves politically and must indicate they are functioning well both socially and politically. This is very good news. I would be very interested in seeing data on voting amongst pwMS internationally, particularly in the UK. At has always been my impression that MSers are quite passive; may be because of MS being so stigmatizing and a lot of pwMS are still in the closet. Based on this Finnish data I am clearly wrong.
BACKGROUND: While poor self-rated health is known to decrease an individual’s propensity to vote, disaggregation of the components of health on turnout has thus far received only little attention. This study deepens on the understanding of such relationships by examining the association between chronic diseases and voting.
METHODS: The study uses an individual-level register-based data set that contains an 11% random sample of the entire electorate in the 1999 Finnish parliamentary elections. With information on hospital discharge diagnoses and reimbursements for drugs prescribed, we identify persons with chronic hospital-treated diseases (coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, depression, cancer, psychotic mental disease, diabetes, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic disease, epilepsy, arthrosis, alcoholism, dementia, atherosclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, other degenerative brain diseases, multiple sclerosis and kidney disease).
RESULTS: After adjusting for gender, age, education, occupational class, income, partnership status, cohabitation with underaged children and hospitalisation during Election Day, neurodegenerative brain diseases had the strongest negative relationship with voting (dementia OR=0.20, 95% CI 0.18 to 0.22; others up to OR=0.70). Alcoholism (OR=0.66) and mental disorders also had a negative association (depression OR=0.91; psychotic mental disease OR=0.79), whereas cancer and COPD/asthma had a positive association (both OR=1.05). Having more than one condition at a time further decreased voting probability.
CONCLUSIONS: By showing how different health conditions are related to voter turnout, this study provides essential information for identifying gaps in the potential for political participation and for further inquiries aiming to develop models that explain the link between health and voting probability.