The Bodies Politic: Chronic Health Conditions and Participatory Inequalities

53 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2013

See all articles by Wendy M. Rahn

Wendy M. Rahn

University of Minnesota - Minneapolis

Sarah Gollust

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Date Written: 2013


Health policy researchers often evaluate the social and economic consequences of chronic illness, but rarely have they considered the implications of chronic illness on political participation. However, if chronic illnesses — already unequally distributed in society — are associated with differential rates of political participation, then these inequalities in democratic representation could, in turn, feed back to produce further health inequity. In this study, we use data from 8 states from the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey to examine the associations between having diagnoses of five chronic conditions and turnout in the 2008 election. After adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and some health-related confounding factors, we find that individuals with cancer diagnoses are more likely to vote while those with heart disease diagnoses are less likely to vote. These associations differ by race and educational status; notably, blacks and those with lower education who are diagnosed with cancer are even more likely to turn out to vote than whites and those with more education with cancer. We discuss the implications of our finding within the context of health social movements and the role of health organizations in shaping political processes, important directions for the study of health politics.

Keywords: health policy, turnout, political behavior, inequality

Suggested Citation

Rahn, Wendy M. and Gollust, Sarah, The Bodies Politic: Chronic Health Conditions and Participatory Inequalities (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper, American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting, Available at SSRN:

Wendy M. Rahn (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Minneapolis ( email )

Sarah Gollust

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities ( email )

420 Delaware St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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