Conservative British PM Boris Johnson riding a bike in Melbourne. Conservative voters are healthier, researchers say.
Conservative British PM Boris Johnson riding a bike in Melbourne. Conservative voters are healthier, researchers say.

Why conservative voters are healthier

CONSERVATIVE voters are more likely to be healthier because they place greater value on taking personal responsibility for their actions, researchers propose.

Coalition supporters were more likely than Labor voters to take stairs up one floor instead of an easier ride up an elevator, a Monash University study has found.

Politically conservative Americans were also more likely to self-report better physical health.

And merely exposing people to conservative language appeared to strengthen their desire to stop smoking.

Study author and consumer behaviour expert Dr Eugene Chan said the results suggested highlighting personal responsibility in public health messages could potentially help encourage healthy lifestyles and tackle problems such as the nation's obesity crisis.

Dr Chan, from the Monash Business School, said the research was the first of its kind to explore whether one reason conservatives might be healthier than left-leaning counterparts was because they valued being accountable for their own behaviours more highly.

"We certainly do not believe that conservatives' personal responsibility is the only explanation for their possible greater health," Dr Chan said.

"However, we believe that it can play a role and may offer implications for medical doctors and public health officials in encouraging healthy lifestyles."

Dr Chan noted previous studies had suggested individuals on higher incomes or taking part in more religious activities tended to vote conservatively and had access to a wider variety of health services or social networks.

The latest research, published in the Personality and Individual Differences journal, involved 600 Australian and American participants.

In one experiment, more Liberal-National supporters opted to take a flight of stairs instead of an elevator (52.9 per cent) than Labor voters (36.3 per cent).

In another test, politically conservative Americans reported greater overall physical health and a bigger emphasis on personal responsibility such as "I pay my bills on time" and "I put a seat belt on when I enter a car".

A third experiment found smokers were 15 per cent more likely to say they intended to quit when "primed" with conservative words such as "traditional" and "conventional" rather than "left wing".

karen.collier@news.com.au

@KarenCollierHS



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